Armenian security forces shot and wounded three more gunmen on Friday in a continuing standoff with an armed opposition group barricaded inside a police compound in Yerevan.
The Armenian police spokesman, Ashot Aharonian, said they “returned fire” after the gunmen again started firing gunshots in defiance of warnings issued by law-enforcement authorities. “One of the shooters, Arayik Khandoyan, was wounded,” he said.
Aharonian said the gunfire continued after Khandoyan’s was struck by a bullet. “Two more shooters were wounded by retaliatory fire from law-enforcers,” he wrote on Facebook later in the evening. “They are receiving adequate medical assistance.”
Aharonian said the gunmen, Artur Melkonian and Armen Lambarian, were taken to the nearby Erebuni hospital afterwards.
Around the same time, an RFE/RL correspondent witnessed the hospitalization of two men outside the hospital entrance guarded by masked and armed security officers. She reported that one of them was Lambarian but could not recognize the other man.
Varuzhan Avetisian, the gunmen’s leader, blamed the police and the National Security Service (NSS) for Khandoyan’s shooting when he spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) before the two other gunmen were reportedly wounded.
“We contacted an NSS representative and he said, ‘You are shooting and that is why were are returning fire,’”Avetisian said by phone.
“But we are not shooting at them,” he said. “We are shooting inside our territory for our safety. We are shooting at an [unmanned aerial] device to make sure that it doesn’t drop bombs and harm us.”
Avetisian said that Khandoyan was wounded in the leg and immediately treated by three medics that were taken hostage by the gunmen on Wednesday.
The armed oppositionist affiliated with the Founding Parliament movement claimed that the ambulance crew are not hostages. But he admitted that they are being held in the seized compound against their will.
Armenia - Varuzhan Avetisian, a leader of an armed group that seized a police station in Yerevan, 23Jul2016.
“The presence of doctors here is a matter of life or death for us,” said Avetisian. “We are not holding the doctors hostage, we just need medical aid.”
“If there are no doctors here they will shoot us one by one,” he said.
Earlier this week, at least four other gunmen were wounded in the leg and captured by the security forces in disputed circumstances. One or two other members of the armed group were also wounded before Friday’s incident, but they remain within the compound.
The group currently numbering more that dozen members has rejected government offers to hospitalize them apparently because that would inevitably lead to their arrest. It says the two men must undergo surgery within the police premises seized by them on July 17.
Avetisian insisted on Friday that the three medics will be allowed to leave the compound only if they are replaced by another ambulance crew.
Taguhi Stepanian, the chief of Yerevan’s public ambulance service, rejected that condition. “They deceived us when they held our doctors [on Wednesday,]” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “They had told us that they have two seriously wounded persons and that they want the doctors to transport them to hospital.”
“Then they told the doctors, ‘You won’t get out of here until our demands are met,” said Stepanian.
The gunmen demanding President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation already took several police officers hostage when they stormed the police compound. They released all of those officers by July 23 after holding talks with the government through a mediator from Nagorno-Karabakh.
Avetisian insisted that there have been no further negotiations with he government since then.