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Pashinian Ally Denies Blaming Russia For Armenian Parliament Killings


Armenia - Andranik Kocharian, the chairman of the parliamentary committee on defense and security, speaks to RFE/RL in Yerevan, January 30, 2019.

A senior lawmaker representing Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s My Step alliance strongly denied on Friday media reports which quoted him as accusing Russia of masterminding the deadly 1999 attack on Armenia’s parliament.

According to some online media outlets, Andranik Kocharian, the current chairman of a parliament committee on defense and security, alleged recently that Armenian investigators have established that President Vladimir Putin had personally ordered Russian security services to organize the attack.

Five gunmen led by a former journalist, Nairi Hunanian, burst into the National Assembly and sprayed it with bullets on October 27, 1999. Then Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian, parliament speaker Karen Demirchian and six other officials were killed in the shooting spree that thrust Armenia’s government into turmoil.

The gunmen accused the government of corruption and misrule and demanded regime change. They surrendered to police after overnight negotiations with then President Robert Kocharian (no relation to Andranik). They were subsequently tried and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Andranik Kocharian, who has long been at loggerheads with the former president, denounced the claims attributed to him as “false” and “nonsensical.”

“State structures could never say such nonsensical things because neither the parliament attack inquiry is over nor can anyone make such claims based on materials of the investigation,” he said. “There are simply no grounds for anyone to make such nonsensical conclusions,” he added.

Kocharian said the media reports were part of an anti-government “provocation” aimed at undermining Russian-Armenian relations. He expressed confidence that Moscow did not take them seriously.

Kocharian singled out 7or.am, a news website critical of Pashinian’s government and sympathetic to the arrested ex-president, as the primary source of the “disinformation.” He said law-enforcement authorities must launch an investigation if the website fails to produce evidence of his alleged statement.

The 7or.am editor, Aregnaz Manukian, said that her publication was not the first to claim that Kocharian pointed the finger at Putin. “We picked up the story on the Internet, and since there was no reaction to it for a long time, we decided to publish it,” Manukian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “Andranik Kocharian should have refuted it earlier.”

Hunanian insisted throughout his marathon trial that he himself had decided to storm the parliament without anybody's orders. But many in Armenia still believe that the ringleader and his accomplices had powerful sponsors outside the parliament building.

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