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Armenian Security Chief Eyes Top Football Role


Armenia - Artur Vanetsian, director of the National Security Service (NSS), speaks to journalists in Yerevan, 18 June 2018.

The chief of Armenia’s most powerful security service, Artur Vanetsian, admitted on Thursday his desire to also run the national Football Federation (FFA) currently headed by a reputedly violent businessman.

“I love football,” Vanetsian told reporters. “I have no final decision on taking up the post of federation chairman but won’t make secret of having such a desire and thinking in that direction.”

“I am ready to run [for the post of FFA chairman,]” said the recently appointed director of the National Security Service (NSS), the former Armenian branch of the Soviet KGB. “Time will tell whether or not I will get elected.”

The FFA has been managed by Ruben Hayrapetian, a wealthy businessman linked to Armenia’s former government, for the last 16 years. The 55-year-old better known as “Nemets Rubo” has long been dogged by controversy resulting from his reportedly violent conduct. As recently as in August 2015, he avoided prosecution despite admitting that he beat up another entrepreneur.

In 2012, Hayrapetian was forced to step down as parliament deputy representing the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) following a brutal attack on several army medics who dined at a Yerevan restaurant owned by his family. One of them died while two others were seriously injured after arguing with men working for Hayrapetian.

Armenia - Ruben Hayrapetian, chairman of the Football Federation of Armenia, hands an award to national team captain Henrikh Mkhitaryan in Yerevan, 22 March, 2018.
Armenia - Ruben Hayrapetian, chairman of the Football Federation of Armenia, hands an award to national team captain Henrikh Mkhitaryan in Yerevan, 22 March, 2018.

In recent years, Hayrapetian has faced growing calls to resign from angry fans holding him responsible for the poor performance of the national football team. The pressure on him grew further following mass protests that led to the resignation of Armenia’s longtime leader, Serzh Sarkisian, in April.

Hayrapetian continued to publicly refuse to quit until this week. He said on Tuesday that he will step aside if Vanetsian is nominated as a candidate in the next election of FFA chairman slated for September.

Vanetsian, 38, insisted that the NSS has not raided any businesses owned by Hayrapetian in recent weeks. Nor has it threatened to conduct such audits if the embattled FFA chairman refuses to step down, he said.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, who harshly criticized Hayrapetian when he launched the street protests in April, spoke of “inevitable changes” in Armenian football on Sunday. Earlier this month, Pashinian made a point of watching together with Vanetsian a football game in Yerevan between retired European and South American soccer stars.

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