A Russian soldier accused of murdering the seven members of an Armenian family in Gyumri in January will be tried by an Armenian court, state prosecutors in Yerevan officially confirmed on Tuesday.
Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General elaborated on President Serzh Sarkisian’s announcement late last week that Russia has agreed to transfer the high-profile criminal case toArmenian jurisdiction.
The law-enforcement agency said this will be done after a “settlement of procedural issues.” “We cannot speak of concrete time frames at the moment,” it said in a statement. “What is clear, however, is that Armenian law-enforcers will investigate the murder case while Armenian courts will administer justice.”
Permyakov has been kept under arrest at the Gyumri headquarters of the Russian military base in Armenia ever since being arrested on January 12 shortly after a local couple, their daughter, son, daughter-in-law and 2-year-old granddaughter were found dead in their home. The seventh member of the Avetisian family, a 6-month-old baby boy, died of his stab injuries a week later.
Permyakov admitted murdering them during his separate interrogations by Russian and Armenian law-enforcement officials. His motives remain unclear.
Russian authorities made clear immediately after the shock massacre that Permyakov will not be extradited to Armenia. This caused outrage among many Armenians fearing a Russian cover-up of the gruesome crime. Thousands of them demonstrated in Gyumri on January 14-15 to demand Permyakov’s handover to the Armenian side. Some of them clashed with riot police outside the Russian consulate in the city.
The unprecedented protests forced Armenia’s Prosecutor-General Gevorg Kostanian to formally ask his Russian counterpart Yuri Chayka to ensure that the high-profile case is placed under Armenian jurisdiction. But even after Kostanian’s letter to Chayka Russian officials insisted that the detained soldier will be tried by a Russian military court.
According to the Armenian prosecutors’ statement, the apparent Russian U-turn was the result of “lengthy negotiations” held by Russian and Armenian officials. It said the two sides ultimately agreed that they should be guided not only by their respective national legislations but also international law.
Russia’s constitution prohibits the extradition to other states of Russian nationals wanted for various crimes. Still, a Russian-Armenian treaty signed in 1997 envisages the handover to Armenian authorities of Russian soldiers charged with crimes committed outside Russian military installations in Armenia.
Armenian observers link Permyakov’s impending extradition with continuing street protests in Yerevan against electricity price hikes initiated by Armenia’s Russian-owned power distribution network. They say Moscow is now keen to woo Armenians in order to prevent the protests from growing into the kind of a Western-backed popular revolt that deposed last year Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.