Arsen Titanian said on Wednesday that Lori Governor Aram Khachatrian told him to tender his resignation during a tense meeting held in the provincial capital Vanadzor. He said he was assaulted by about a dozen other men moments after leaving Khachatrian’s office in the provincial administration building.
Titanian said he suffered several injuries to his face and head. “I have a headache right now,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service by phone.
It also emerged that unknown individuals broke overnight into a shop in the village of Odzun belonging to Titanian’s sister and stole cigarettes and other products kept there. The intruders smashed the shop’s door.
Police officers from the nearby town of Alaverdi arrived at the crime scene on Wednesday. They said they will look into a possible connection between the robbery and the alleged assault on the long-serving village chief.
Governor Khachatrian, who is affiliated with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s Civil Contract party, admitted summoning Titanian to his office but denied demanding his resignation or ordering his beating.
“We may have raised our voices but that was not a reason for complaining to the police,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
The alleged assault was first reported by Hayastan representatives late on Tuesday. They said Titanian was threatened and pressured by the governor because of having backed Hayastan in the June 20 parliamentary elections.
The office of Armenia’s human rights ombudsman, Arman Tatoyan, said shortly afterwards that it contacted Titanian and was told that he is reporting the incident to police. It pledged to “send a note” to the Office of the Prosecutor-General the following morning.
A spokesman for Prosecutor-General Artur Davtian said, meanwhile, that he has already ordered a formal criminal investigation into the alleged beating.
With a population of more than 5,000, Odzun is one of the country’s largest rural communities. Titanian has run the village since 2008.
The 51-year-old mayor made clear that he still intends to complete his fourth term in office next year. He admitted being a Hayastan supporter but insisted that he did not campaign for the opposition bloc led by former President Robert Kocharian in the run-up to the elections won by Pashinian’s party.
Several local residents interviewed by RFE/RL’s Armenian Service said Titanian never pressured them to vote for Hayastan. “We voted for our preferred man on our own,” said one woman.
Civil Contract won 2,230 votes in Odzun, compared with only 376 votes cast for Kocharian’s bloc.
A spokesman for Hayastan, Aram Vardevanian, claimed that many other local community heads supporting the bloc have also come under strong government pressure to resign in the wake of the elections.
“If the authorities do not put an end to this practice they will trigger a new political crisis,” he warned in a statement.
Hayastan finished second in the snap polls, according to official vote results rejected by it as fraudulent.
Many of the local officials affiliated with it run towns and villages in southeastern Syunik province. They demanded Pashinian’s resignation shortly after Armenia’s defeat in the autumn war with Azerbaijan. At least three of them were prosecuted on different charges in the following months.
Some Pashinian associates demanded the resignation of the pro-opposition Syunik mayors immediately after Civil Contract’s election victory.
Kocharian predicted on Tuesday morning that the authorities will crack down on these and other mayors allied to him in the coming weeks.
During the 12-day election campaign Pashinian pledged to wage “political vendettas” against local government officials linked to the opposition.