Three high-ranking officers of Armenia’s police and National Security Service (NSS) have been dismissed following the two-week standoff with gunmen that seized a police compound in Yerevan to demand President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation.
They include Hrant Yepiskoposian, the NSS’s first deputy director, and Mnatsakan Marukian, who headed the NSS’s powerful Investigative Department.
Yepiskoposian was sacked by a presidential decree on Thursday. Sarkisian’s office gave no reason for the dismissal.
An NSS spokesman told the Armenpress news agency Marukian has retired and been replaced by his first deputy, Mikael Hambardzumian.
The official, Samson Galstian, would not say whether the personnel change was connected with the July 17 seizure of the police compound in Yerevan’s Erebuni district by armed members of a radical opposition group, Founding Parliament.
Two police officers were killed and several others taken hostage before the gunmen surrendered on July 31 to NSS and police forces besieging them.
The pre-dawn attack came almost one month after Founding Parliament’s leader, Zhirayr Sefilian, was arrested for allegedly planning to seize government buildings and a television tower in Yerevan. Sefilian and his associates denied the NSS allegations as politically motivated.
The law-enforcement authorities’ failure to prevent the Erebuni attack raised questions among Armenian media commentators and analysts.
President Sarkisian commended the police and NSS on Monday for forcing the gunmen to lay down their arms without launching a large-scale assault.
The other sacked officer, Gevorg Hakobian, ran Erebuni’s police department. Its headquarters is adjacent to the seized compound that housed a police regiment tasked with crowd control and street patrols. The regiment is technically not subordinate to the Erebuni police.
A police spokesman gave no reason for Hakobian’s sacking when he reported it late on Wednesday.
The police and the NSS worked together late last November when they raided a house in another Yerevan district, finding large quantities of weapons there and arresting 11 people. At least 12 more people were detained in the following weeks on charges of involvement in what the authorities called an armed group that had planned to assassinate senior Armenian officials and seize government buildings.
Hambardzumian, the newly appointed head of the NSS’s Investigative Department, held a news conference later in November to give some details of the high-profile case not connected to Founding Parliament.