By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The lawyer of two Armenians charged with killing a Russian serviceman says his clients deny the charges brought against them by prosecutors.
Yenok Azarian on Tuesday said the murder charges did not correspond to the evidence available in the case.
At the same time he warned some public circles against trying to look for ethnic motives behind the incident.
“An incident happened for which we, of course, feel sorry. I don’t see any point in politicizing the case. The pain is deep no matter whether a Russian or an Armenian died and it shouldn’t influence the legal estimations,” Azarian said in an RFE/RL interview. “I have a premonition that my clients may become victims of public emotions.”
Artem Andreasian and Gor Balian, both 30 years old, are charged with killing 22-year Dmitry Yermolov, a Russian military officer stationed in Armenia, on August 6 night.
According to prosecutors, the two Armenians stopped a car carrying five Russian soldiers and started a fight. They reportedly beat two Russian servicemen before firing at their vehicle from hunting rifles, fatally wounding one passenger, who died later on the way to hospital.
The crime occurred in the village of Arinj on the outskirts of Yerevan and prosecutors say it stemmed from a quarrel.
Last week Andreasian and Balian were charged on two counts of Armenia’s penal code: article 118 (beating) and points 6 and 10 of part 2 of article 104 (a murder committed in a manner dangerous for the lives of many people; for motives of hooliganism).
Both face 8 to 15 years in prison or a life sentence under the murder charge and a fine of 100,000 drams (approx. $300) or two months in jail the longest under the charge of beating.
Several forensic examinations had been appointed, including medical, ballistic and chemical to establish a number of circumstances in the case that, according to the spokesperson for the Prosecutor-General’s Office, might change the volume of the indictment.
A bullet was found in the body of the killed Russian officer, but experts are yet to establish whether it was released by Andreasian or Balian.
Azarian says his clients know whose shot killed the Russian officer. But the lawyer refused to go into detail, saying that the ongoing investigation would provide answers in time. He only said that the incident happened “in the wrong place and at the wrong time”, but refused to elaborate beyond that.
Some Armenian press publications have alleged that the two worked for oligarch Gagik Tsarukian’s security. But sources close to Tsarukian have denied this information.
The reported crime scene near the village of Arinj is in the vicinity of Tsarukian’s property.
Azarian said he was hired by the families of Andriasian and Balian that he said lived in “very bad social conditions”.
However, he did not deny that the two had been on some sort of “duty” on the night when the incident occurred.
“I know they are residents of the village of Arinj, live in very bad conditions. Andreasian has a four-year-old daughter. Balian is a father of three. Neither of them has a previous conviction,” Azarian said.
“There is a public indignation at what people perceive as an atmosphere of impunity. But there are also two men who are isolated today and need defending,” the lawyer concluded.
Representatives of the victim and his legal successor were not available for comment.