Georgi Kutoyan, who headed Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) in the final years of former President Serzh Sarkisian’s rule, was found shot to death in Yerevan on Friday.
A spokeswoman for the Investigative Committee, Naira Harutiunian, reported in the afternoon that Kutoyan’s body had a gunshot wound then it was discovered by his wife at his Yerevan apartment “a short while ago.”
Forensic experts and other officers of the law-enforcement agency are already “working at the scene,” Harutiunian wrote on Facebook.
A high-ranking Investigative Committee official, Artur Melikian, said later in the day that preliminary indications are that Kutoyan, 38, was killed by a gunshot fired at his head. But investigators also found dozens of bullets in the apartment and forensic experts will determine whether those were fired from the same pistol, he told reporters outside the apartment building cordoned off by police.
Melikian said that premeditated murder is therefore one of the theories of Kutoyan’s death considered by the investigators.
“We don’t yet have information that anyone heard gunshots,” he said, adding that more residents of the apartment block will be questioned in the coming days.
A lawyer by education, Kutoyan had worked as an assistant to Sarkisian from 2011 until his surprise appointment as director of the NSS in February 2016. He was sacked by newly elected Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian in May 2018 immediately after the “Velvet Revolution” that toppled the country’s former leader.
Kutoyan has made no public statements since then. He also kept a low profile during his tenure.
Sarkisian offered condolences to Kutoyan’s family and said he is “deeply shocked” by the death of the former NSS chief whom described as a highly competent and “decent” individual. In a statement, the ex-president also called for public scrutiny of the unfolding probe of his death.
Armen Ashotian, the deputy chairman of Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), also expressed shock at the “murder” of Kutoyan. “This tragic incident is very strange and raises many questions,” he wrote, demanding a “transparent and comprehensive” investigation from law-enforcement authorities.
Edmon Marukian, the leader of another opposition party, Bright Armenia, likewise demanded that relevant authorities find “clear answers to many questions” resulting from the fatal shooting.
“This is an unexpected and shocking development which we need to seriously analyze and understand … what caused it,” Alen Simonian, a senior lawmaker representing the ruling My Step bloc, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Simonian suggested vaguely that Kutoyan’s death is one of the “echoes of the past which we are still hearing.” He declined to elaborate.
Kutoyan is the second former senior security official found shot dead in the last four months. Hayk Harutiunian, a former chief of the Armenian police, was found dead in his country house in September.
Harutiunian reportedly had a gunshot wound to his head. Investigators suggested that he committed suicide.
In the months leading up to his death, Harutiunian was repeatedly interrogated in an ongoing criminal investigation into the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan. The Special Investigative Service, which is conducting that inquiry, told the Armenpress news agency that it never questioned Kutoyan as a witness or suspect.
The Investigative Committee and the NSS did not investigate or interrogate Kutoyan either, according to the committee spokeswoman.