Protesters Condemn Treatment of Armenian War Veteran in Russia

GYUMRI, Armenia (A.W.)—On July 17, around 30 people gathered near the Russian Consulate in Gyumri, the second largest city in Armenia, with two messages for the Russian representative: First, they wished to honor the memory of the 18 people killed in a car accident in Moscow on July 13, when a truck crashed into a bus. Second, they wanted to voice their condemnation of the discriminatory treatment that the truck driver, Hrachya Harutyunyan, 46, had received by the Russian court and the media.

Hrachya Harutyunyan
Hrachya Harutyunyan

Harutyunyan, a Karabagh War veteran, was taken to court straight from the hospital. According to reports, he was treated poorly and, more significantly, was forced to wear women’s garments—a colorful bathrobe and slippers—at his court appearance. Members of the Russian media have also been accused of racism in their reporting of the accident.

It is still unclear why the truck veered off course and crashed. Some have speculated that a mechanical issue might have been the cause, leaving the truck owner, and not the driver, at fault.

One of the demonstrators, activist Esmarida Poghosian, 25, expressed her outrage at the way Russian authorities had treated Harutyunyan. “What brought me here is the injustice and racism towards our citizen in Russia. He is not being treated properly as a human being. This is a serious violation of human rights.”

After placing flowers and candles by the fence surrounding the consulate, demonstrators demanded that Consul General Vasili Korchmar meet with them. Korchmar was ready to accept just one of them, a consulate employee said.  The demonstrators refused the offer, demanding that at least three people be allowed in, and the meeting be held in the presence of the media.

After waiting for over an hour for a response, the demonstrators hung a woman’s robe on the fence. The police interfered and the robe was immediately removed. One young man brought along a shirt with the Armenian blazon on it, in an attempt to show Harutyunyan that he is not alone, that he is supported by Armenian citizens.

Some have criticized the late and inadequate reaction of the Armenian authorities, who failed to defend their citizen abroad.
As time went on, the demonstrators grew impatient and began chanting, “Korchmar come out!” “Shame on you!” and “Leopold come out!” (The latter was a reference to a famous Russian cartoon hero.)

“Though I do not think that our demonstration will have a very positive result or that we’ll get answers to our questions, it is our duty nonetheless to come here and support our citizen in Russia,” said Vardouhi Mouradyan, a 25-year-old student.

Observers are skeptical that the recent demonstrations near the Russian Embassy in Yerevan and the Consulate in Gyumri will lead to larger anti-Putin demonstrations. “I don’t think that these complaints or demands can lead to an anti-Putin movement because Armenia, unfortunately, is still very connected to Russian industry and economy… I don’t think that Armenian civic activists are ready to create or turn this into a wider anti-Putin movement; rather, maybe something against the imperialistic behavior of Russia,” said Levon Barseghyan, the president of the Board of Asbarez Journalists Club and a member of the Gyumri Municipal Council.
As Consul General Korchmar failed to meet with demonstrators, the crowd dispersed after agreeing to return the following day to raise their voices once again.

Samson Martirosyan

Samson Martirosyan

Samson Martirosyan is The Armenian Weekly's correspondent in Gyumri. He received his B.A. in international affairs from the Russian-Armenian (Slavonic) University in Yerevan. A resident of Gyumri, Martirosyan has interned at the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan and has volunteered his time with various organizations. He is currently a Board member of the European Youth Parliament of Armenia.


  1. I hope that we can see also that this treatment is not only anti-Armenian, it is anti-woman.
    Perhaps Armenians can take inspiration from these Kurdish men who have organized under the name Kurd Men for Equality.

    “Kurdish men in Iran have launched a Facebook campaign to send a message: being a woman is nothing to be ashamed of. The “Kurd Men for Equality” campaign was started in response to a judge’s ruling that forced a man convicted of domestic abuse to wear women’s clothing as a form of public humiliation.

    According to Global Voices, a local court in a Kurdish province of Iran ordered the man be escorted through the streets while wearing a red dress and hijab. Since then, Kurdish Iranians have organized on Facebook to speak out against the ruling, which they say is demeaning to women.”

  2. The Armenian Government has no balls. Which country would let their veterans be treated like this ? I would tell Russia what they could go do ! I am so pissed !

    • Reading this article does not give one the sense that blame can be placed on the Armenian Regime. Running the government of a country is complicated and I hope they are focusing on the many and not the one. I would hate to see a confrontation with Russia result in repercussions in other areas of say the economy. However, information itself is power. Armenians are everywhere. Write to the Russian embassy in your country. Everyday stand up for the oppressed. We have a warden in the US that revels in his inhumanity

      I think I will write two letters today- one for my Armenian countryman and one for my Arizona countrymen.

  3. As an Azeri, it is of course hard to be sympathetic to an Armenian veteran, but the way Russia is treating him is unbelievable. Unbelievable actually and yet believable too. Most Russians are so filthily racist, that I am not sure why a big expose like a New Yorker or Atlantic Monthly article has not already pointed this out to the world community. People from Caucasus are treated like African Americans were treated in the South in 1930s. In this unfortunate Armenian guy’s case, the innocent-till-proven guilty does not even apply, because the Caucasian men in Moscow are guilty-till-proven-innocent or subhuman-before-proven-human. It is not just the criminal system that is like this. Average Russians in the street … An Azeri friend from Moscow tells horror stories of racism, and I am shocked he still lives there. E.g., you are standing in line for something, a Russian comes up to you and says, “You are too dark. Go back to the line. I am Russian.” Or, a store clerk refusing to serve you and advising you to go “home.”

  4. Absolutely unacceptable. Armenian govertnment owe our veterans not only their attentions but their lives if necessary. Its because of our heroes they are sitting in their cushy houses and enjoying freedom.. Shame on them for not standing up for Hrachya who not only could have lost his life protecting our lands but lost his own son… I am absolutely disgusted with them and the Russian treatment ..

  5. No natioon in the world should humiliate any person or human beings.I would call this action ANTI- ARMENIAN.In every Armenian news paper we should stress Anti-Armenian dialogue.We must Agressively fight for Armenian Genocide,Armenian Genocide teaching has started @ schools of San Francisco.We should Rally wearing the flags of every nation.If courts agree the robes in the court they would accept the flags of all nation in the streets.This action is done purposly to start the fight between Rachia and Armenia, I’m sure the Judge was not Russian,they are those sneeky rat races that stirr the whole world.Can’t you live a happy life you psychothics?

  6. I agree with Raffi. Armenia’s regime has no balls. And the reason is the lack of democracy. As long as Armenia’s people is denied democracy, its government will depend on Russia and not Armenia’s people, and the voice of the people will not matter to the government. This is why democracy is a matter of national security for Armenia: the only way to make it stronger, more dignified, and less humiliated.

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