Karo Ayvazian, 21, was shot dead, along with one four other soldiers and one of their commanders, on an Armenian frontline position in Nagorno-Karabakh on July 28. The Armenian Defense Ministry says the shootings were sparked by a dispute resulting from “a blatant violation of the rules of combat duty.” It has declined to give further details.
According to some unofficial reports circulating in the country, Ayvazian went on a shooting spree and turned his gun on himself after a dispute with the officer. His mother, Marine Mikaelian, and other relatives say military officials backed this theory in private conversations with them.
“They are fabricating charges against him,” Mikaelian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service in Yerevan, where she arrived to attend her son’s funeral. “I believe he would defend his comrade’s honor but he would not shoot other comrades.”
“There is no way he could have killed five soldiers and himself,” she said, adding that Ayvazian never complained of any problems in his relationships with fellow conscripts.
Mikaelian, who had emigrated to California with her son in 1992, claimed that the Armenian military is laying the blame on Ayvazian because of what she described as his long criminal record in the United States. She echoed her relatives’ claims that Ayvazian was repeatedly jailed there for a string of crimes, including drug dealing, illegal arms possession and robbery, before being deported to Armenia last year.
Under Armenian law, draft-age male citizens must be exempted from compulsory military service if they have spent three or more years in prison or are repeat offenders. Mikaelian’s father and brother told RFE/RL earlier this week that military officials dismissed documents certifying Ayvazian’s criminal record which they said they submitted before he was drafted. They said the young man also spent time at a U.S. psychiatric clinic and was banned from carrying firearms.
The Defense Ministry said on Thursday that its investigators are now looking into “the legality of Karo Ayvazian’s conscription.” A ministry statement said they have questioned soldiers and officers of his unit, conducted over a dozen forensic tests and are examining “all possible theories” of the shootings.
The Armenian military police have been instructed to “take all necessary operational measures to clear up certain circumstances relating to the incident,” the statement added without elaboration.