The Armenian police reported two arrests on Thursday after raiding the homes of around three dozen men described as major crime figures.
A police statement specified the names as well as underworld nicknames of the individuals whose homes in Yerevan and other parts of Armenia were searched on Wednesday. It said law-enforcement officers found weapons, ammunition and “substances resembling narcotics” in some of them.
All of those men were then taken to police stations for further questioning. The statement referred to them as “thieves-in-law” and “criminal authorities,” terms commonly applied to crime bosses in the former Soviet Union.
A spokesman for the national police service, Zarzand Gabrielian, said two of them were placed under arrest. “They are Aleksandr Makarain nicknamed ‘Alo’ and Andranik Harutiunian nicknamed ‘Masivtsi Andik,’” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “The others were interrogated and released.”
Gabrielian added that the detained men have not been formally charged yet.
The police statement and a video attached to it said that the raids were sanctioned by courts as part of an unspecified “criminal case.” It did not elaborate.
The national police chief, Valeri Osipian, also declined to go into details when he spoke to journalists on Thursday. “Everyone in the Republic of Armenia must obey the laws,” he said vaguely.
Artur Sakunts, a veteran human rights campaigner, welcome the police raids, saying that they are part of the new Armenian authorities’ efforts to strengthen the rule of law in the country. “They are taking clear steps on the basis on the notion that the criminal underworld and its rules cannot be part of government,” he said.
Sakunts claimed that Armenia’s former leaders relied on reputed crime figures in falsifying election results. The latter will now be discouraged from any involvement in political processes, he said.