An Armenian police officer killed by anti-government gunmen occupying a police station in Yerevan was buried on Wednesday in a funeral service attended by senior law-enforcement officials and parliamentarians.
Colonel Artur Vanoyan, a 49-year-old father of three, was a deputy commander of a Yerevan police regiment tasked with protecting government facilities and patrolling streets.
The unit’s headquarters in the city’s southern Erebuni district was attacked and seized on Sunday by more than a dozen armed members of Founding Parliament, a radical opposition group seeking to oust Armenia’s government. Vanoyan was shot dead and several other police seriously wounded in the unprecedented attack.
A leader of the armed group blamed the Armenian police for the bloodshed shortly after the pre-dawn attack. He claimed that the “rebels” fought back in “self-defense” when security forces attempted to retake the building.
Police officials insist, however, that Vanoyan and his injured colleagues were on duty inside their Erebuni base when it was stormed by the gunmen. The latter are still holding four other policemen hostage, demanding the release of their arrested leader, Zhirayr Sefilian.
The hostages include deputy chiefs of the national police and Yerevan’s police department.
Vanoyan lived in Abovian, a town 15 kilometers north of Yerevan, and was laid to rest at a local cemetery.
Vladimir Gasparian, the chief of the Armenian police, posthumously awarded Vanoyan a medal, citing his “bravery and self-sacrifice” demonstrated during the armed attack. Gasparian’s decision was read out during the funeral attended by the police chief and his high-ranking subordinates.
Vanoyan’s friends and colleagues attending the ceremony were also full of praise for the slain officer. “He was a good friend, a good father, a good grandfather,” one of them, Martik Vahradian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Artur Khachatrian, Vanoyan’s former boss, said: “He was a real policeman, a real man. If he wasn’t, he might have stayed alive.”
“He fell victim to something that was totally meaningless,” added Khachatrian.
Founding Parliament, which favors a hard line on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, says that President Serzh Sarkisian and his administration must resign primarily because of their readiness to make territorial concessions to Azerbaijan. Some of its heavily armed members holed up in the Erebuni police compound are veterans of the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan.
Ironically, Vanoyan too was a Karabakh war veteran. According to colleagues, he was also among Armenian volunteers that rushed to Karabakh after the Azerbaijani army launched an offensive there in April.