The pro-government mayor of Echmiadzin, a town 20 kilometers west of Yerevan, and his main challenger clashed with each other on the eve of a weekend local election that was won by the incumbent.
A spokesman for the local municipality said Mayor Karen Grigorian came under fire from a car carrying his rival, Artur Tumanian, as he returned from Yerevan late on Friday. “The fact is that it was a crime, people used firearms,” said the official, Vartan Vartanian.
Tumanian offered a very different version of events on Saturday when he spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) in a hospital where he was taken after sustaining injuries during the violent incident.
Tumanian said that he and the car’s driver, Stepan Abgarian, were stopped and attacked by about 20 men led by the mayor while trying to locate a supporter kidnapped by the Grigorian campaign. He said that in a bid to scare away the attackers he fired gunshots in the air from a pistol accidentally dropped by Grigorian.
Law-enforcement authorities launched criminal proceedings in connection with the incident. They did not immediately arrest or charge anyone.
Grigorian on Monday insisted that the gun does not belong to him and accused his challenger of resorting to a “provocation.” “I’m sure that they were drunk,” he charged.
The mayor also denied the Tumanian campaign’s claims that he has created an atmosphere of fear in Echmiadzin. He portrayed his rivals as agents of a former Echmiadzin mayor, Hrachik Abgarian, who he claimed is desperate to regain control of the local government and again “plunder” the community.
Grigorian, in office since 2008, secured another four-year term in the mayoral election held on Sunday. Official election results showed him garnering 10,587 votes, compared with 3,651 ballots cast for Tumanian.
The Echmiadzin mayor is a son of Manvel Grigorian, a retired prominent army general and the head of the Yerkrapah Union, an influential organization uniting veterans of the 1991-1994 war in Nagorno-Karabakh.