Paruyr Hayrikian, an opposition candidate in Armenia’s upcoming presidential election, was rushed to hospital after being shot and wounded in downtown Yerevan in unclear circumstances on Thursday night.
Doctors at Yerevan’s Surp Grigor Lusavorich hospital said a gunshot wound sustained by him is not life-threatening. “He suffered a gunshot injury to the right side of his rib cage,” said Gagik Manukian, a deputy director of the hospital. “It’s a skin injury and his lungs were not damaged. The patient’s condition is of medium gravity and he remains conscious.”
“There is no need for surgery for now,” added Manukian.
The Armenian authorities swiftly condemned the shock shooting as an attempt to destabilize the political situation in the country ahead of the February 18 election. A prominent Soviet-era dissident, Hayrikian is one of the eight candidates running for president.
The shooting occurred just before midnight at the entrance to an apartment block in the city center where Hayrikian lives with his family. According to his relatives, the veteran politician was returning home from the offices of his National Self-Determination Union (AIM) party. They said they had never heard of any death or violence threats addressed to Hayrikian.
The Armenian police chief, Vladimir Gasparian said that an unknown gunman apparently fired two gunshots and one of them hit Hayrikian in the shoulder. He said the police will conduct a “meticulous” investigation to identify the shooter and his motives.
“Doctors assured me that his life is not in danger,” Gasparian told journalists in the hospital. “Thank God, I personally spoke to Hayrikian.”
A number of other politicians and senior government officials also visited Hayrikian at the hospital overnight. Among them were Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian, parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian as well as two other major opposition presidential candidates, Raffi Hovannisian and Hrant Bagratian. Both Sarkisian and Abrahamian condemned the shooting as a blow to the Armenian government.
“This crime is directed against our people and our state,” Abrahamian told reporters. “It’s a political crime and everything must be done to solve it.”
Representatives of the Hayrikian campaign were also angered by what they described as an assassination attempt connected with Hayrikian’s participation in the presidential campaign.
The shooting called into question the planned conduct of the forthcoming ballot in which President Serzh Sarkisian is seeking a second term in office. Under the Armenian constitution, a presidential election must be postponed by at least two weeks if one of the candidates faces “insurmountable obstacles.”
Abrahamian, who also manages President Sarkisian’s election campaign, did not rule out the possibility of such delay. “If there is an obstacle connected with Paruyr Hayrikian’s health the elections will be postponed by two weeks,” he said.