By Ruzanna Stepanian
The Armenian police are still looking for a criminal suspect who is reportedly affiliated with the Yerkrapah Union of Nagorno-Karabakh war veterans and found refuge at the influential organization’s headquarters last week, a senior police official said on Monday.
“The fugitive has not been tracked down,” Colonel Nerses Nazarian, chief of Yerevan’s police department, told reporters. He said his officers have been instructed to locate him “within a short period of time.”
The man, whose identity remains unknown, hid in the Yerkrapah building and escaped arrest on Thursday as he was chased by about a dozen police officers suspecting him of “hooliganism.” News reports have said they were confronted and beaten by Yerkrapah officials inside the building. Scores of war veterans gathered outside it soon after and held a vigil there for at least two days.
Nazarian confirmed that he was among senior policemen who arrived at the scene for late-night emergency talks with Deputy Defense Minister Manvel Grigorian and other Yerkrapah leaders. He claimed that the incident has been blown out of proportion by the media, insisting that it did not turn violent.
“Our guys from the Kanaker-Zeytun [district] police simply chased a suspect who entered the Yerkrapah building and they followed him,” said Nazarian. “People inside it really didn’t know that they are police officers.”
“There may have been an argument in the process, but nothing serious happened,” he added. The suspect fled the building during the bust-up and Grigorian later “instructed Yerkrapah to help the police” track him down, he said.
Other Yerkrapah leaders told RFE/RL on Friday that they will not allow the police to arrest any member of the organization inside its headquarters. The fugitive war veteran is said to be a construction worker who got in trouble with the police after brawling with one of his colleagues.
Nazarian also released the latest officials statistics that show a 13 percent increase in the number of crimes registered by the police in Yerevan in the first quarter of this year. He said in particular that the number of home burglaries and mobile phone thefts has nearly doubled during the period in question.