The Armenian police tightened security around key government buildings and Russian facilities in Gyumri on Monday in an apparent anticipation of fresh protests against the slaughter of a local family blamed on a Russian soldier.
Several dozen busloads of special police entered the northwestern Armenian city shortly before and after the official announcement of the death of the 6-month-old Seryozha Avetisian, the seventh victim of the January 12 bloodbath.
The police reinforcements arrived following a meeting in Gyumri of senior government and security officials. It was chaired by Vladimir Gasparian, the chief of the national police. Colonel Andrey Ruzinsky, the commander of a Russian military base headquartered in the city, was also in attendance. None of the participants made any public statements after the meeting.
A police spokesman in Yerevan denied that security forces are beefing up their presence in Gyumri. Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), he described as the dispatch of police units as a mere personnel rotation.
Security in the city was already beefed up after angry protesters clashed with riot police near the Russian consulate in Gyumri on Thursday. A larger number of local residents marched to the Russian base there on Wednesday, demanding that the Russian soldier charged with killing the members of the Avetisian family be handed over to Armenian law-enforcement bodies.
The police on Monday increased the number of officers guarding the consulate, the Russian base and a residential complex housing Russian officers and their families.
No fresh demonstrations took place there later in the day. The non-partisan organizers of last week’s protests have said that they are waiting for Armenia’s Prosecutor-General Gevorg Kostanian to try to have Valery Permyakov, the murder suspect remaining in Russian military custody, transferred to Armenian jurisdiction. Kostanian assured about 2,000 protesters on Thursday that he will send a corresponding letter to his Russian counterpart.
Earlier on Monday, the governor of Armenia’s Shirak province, of which Gyumri is the capital, added his voice to growing calls for Permyakov to be tried in an Armenian court, rather than a Russian military tribunal. “We are demanding a fair trial, [we are demanding] that we conduct the trial,” Felix Tsolakian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“But everything must be done prudently -- through common sense and concrete demands,” said Tsolakian. “I am pinning my hopes on people’s prudence, serenity and calm. I am calling on all Gyumri residents not to succumb to emotions,” he added.