Baby Who Was Sole Survivor of Attack on Family in Gumri Dies


Alleged Assailant, a Russian Soldier, to Be Tried in Armenia

GUMRI (RFE/RL and BBC) — A 6-month-old boy who had been stabbed last week in what authorities say was a brutal attack by a Russian soldier in Armenia has died.

The Armenian Health Ministry said that Seryozha Avetisian, who had been the sole survivor of the attack that killed his parents, 2-year-old sister, aunt and grandparents, died on January 19 at the Holy Mother of God Medical Center in Yerevan.

“Despite lengthy, continuous efforts by local and international experts, the attempts to improve the boy’s condition did not bring positive results. The patient’s heart, lungs and kidneys gradually failed, which led to his death,” the statement said.

Officials say a conscript at Russia’s military base in Armenia, Valery Permyakov, confessed to the attack after Russian authorities apprehended him at the Armenian-Turkish border on January 13.

The attack sparked violent protests last week in Yerevan and Gumri, the site of the Russian base and the slain family’s home, by Armenians demanding the suspect be transferred to Armenian custody.

Reports indicated that additional Interior Ministry troops were entering Gumri on January 19 after news of the boy’s death was reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to Armenian President Serge Sargisian by phone on January 18 and expressed his condolences to Avetisian’s relatives and “the Armenian nation as a whole,” offering to send a plane to take the wounded boy to Moscow for medical care.

Russia’s Investigative Committee chief, Aleksandr Bastrykin, arrived in Yerevan on January 19 at the invitation of his Armenian counterpart, Agvan Ovsepian, to discuss the Gumri tragedy.

Armenia’s Investigative Committee said on January 19 that dozens of people, including Avetisian’s relatives and neighbors, as well as Permyakov’s fellow-soldiers, had been interrogated regarding the massacre and samples of their hair, blood and urine had been taken for DNA tests.

Gumri Mayor Samvel Balasanian held talks with the acting commander of Russia’s border guards in Armenia, Sergei Merzlikin; the commander of the Russian 102nd military base in Gumri, Andrei Ruzinsky; and the deputy police chief of Armenia’s Shirak Province, Ashot Grigorian.

They agreed that Russian commanders must increase discipline at the base.

Russia says a soldier accused of killing seven members of a family in Armenia will be tried on Armenian soil, but media reports say the trial will be conducted by a Russian military court.

Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said the investigation and criminal proceedings against suspect Valery Permyakov “will be held exclusively on Armenian soil.”

However, he said that the proceedings will be conducted in accordance with international law, Russian legislation and agreements between Russia and Armenia governing Russia’s military base in Gumri.

Hundreds of people lined up outside Gumri’s St. Nshan Church on January 15 for a chance to pay their respects to six family members brutally murdered in their home earlier this week.

The youngest victim, 2-year-old Hasmik Avetisian, lay in a tiny coffin, her arm wrapped around a doll.

Arman Suleymanian, an Armenian journalist speaking to Russia’s Dozhd TV, expressed amazement at reports that Permyakov had abandoned the base in the middle of the night, heavily armed, without attracting attention.

“No alarm was raised at the base — no one cared why this soldier was roaming the streets with a Kalashnikov,” Suleymanian said. “Then this murder takes place, and Armenian officials react by saying that he had asked for a glass a water and been refused, and that’s why he shot everyone. It’s just one stupid statement after another.”

Gumri residents are seen as largely tolerant of the Russian base, which has provided steady employment for a number of locals. But the Avetisian murders have nevertheless evoked unpleasant memories of past violence tied to the 102nd.

In 1999, two intoxicated Russian officers opened fire at the city’s market, killing two and wounding dozens of others. In 2013, two boys were killed by explosive devices left by Russian soldiers on the base’s firing ground.

Mikael Ajapahyan, the head of a local diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, has called for calm in Gumri but said people must get “clear answers” on the murders, adding, “I cannot calm them down for life.”

Statements of condolence came from around the region and the world, including President Sargisian, Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II, the leadership of Nagorno Karabagh and various ambassadors.