Murder Near Russian Military Base Tests Yerevan-Moscow Bond

Julieta Ghukasian (Photo credit: RFE/RL)

GYUMRI—Authorities in Armenia have confirmed the arrest of a yet unnamed Russian soldier for the brutal murder of an Armenian woman.

The 23 year-old serviceman allegedly accosted 57 year-old Julieta Ghukasyan on the morning of December 2nd. Ghukasyan was on her way to work; she was a street sweeper. According to the autopsy report, she was beaten severely. She succumbed to her wounds later that day. The accused Russian contract soldier was arrested eight days later on December 10th. His whereabouts were previously unknown, but he was believed to be on the Russian military base.

Ghukasyan’s daughter Anahit told reporters, “I wish I was blind when I saw my mother’s swollen face.” She was working the same job but on a different street; she did not witness the murder of her mother.

Artur Sakunts from the Helsinki Citizen’s Assembly is representing the Ghukasyan family. Sakunts told reporters that the accused soldier has been charged under Article 14, Part 2, Article 112 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Armenia and faces up to 10 years in prison.

The Russian Embassy in Yerevan initially dismissed reports of the murder being committed by a member of the Russian Armed Forces. The embassy later issued a statement urging not to politicize the incident.

Entrance to Russian 102nd Military Base, Gyumri (Photo: Raffi Elliott)

This is the third deadly incident involving military personnel from the Russian 102nd Military Base in Gyumri. In 1999, two Russian soldiers opened fire in a central market with automatic weapons, killing two. They were later extradited to Russia and freed. Most recently in 2015, Valery Permyakov, a contract soldier from Siberia, murdered an entire family of seven, including two toddlers. The murder and the ensuing diplomatic incident caused major unrest across the country. Riots broke out in Gyumri and Yerevan when the Armenian prosecutor general announced his agreement to try Permyakov in a Russian military court, despite a standing bilateral agreement giving Armenia jurisdiction on the matter.

The Russian Defence Ministry has faced criticism for not properly vetting contract soldiers before international deployments.

The murder threatens to further strain relations between Armenia and its traditional ally Russia. Ever since the Velvet Revolution brought Nikol Pashinyan’s Civil Contract to power, there has been an air of uncertainty between Moscow and Yerevan. The Kremlin and Pashinyan’s critics have accused him of being “pro-western” in the past. However, as Prime Minister, Pashinyan has been careful in his dealings with Russia.

Last week, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov announced a planned agreement committing Armenia to ban the presence of foreign military personnel within its borders. This restriction presumably exempts the 102nd military base.

So far, no motive has been announced in the Gyumri murder, but the suspect is scheduled to stand trial next week.

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Raffi Elliott

Columnist & Armenia Correspondent
Raffi Elliott is a Canadian-Armenian political risk analyst and journalist based in Yerevan, Armenia. As correspondent and columnist for the Armenian Weekly, he covers socioeconomic, political, business and diplomatic issues in Armenia, with occasional thoughts on culture and urbanism.

17 Comments

  1. The last time we saw a Russian mass murderer and baby killer who wiped out an entire Armenian family get numerous advantages courtesy of “Mother Russia”, showing how Armenia does not abide by its own laws, but is based on anything Russia tells it to do. The incompetent and wussy Armenian authorities let the killer relocate to Russia. I suspect this latest round is going to end up the same way.

    It was of utmost importance that the killer be jailed for life on Armenian soil, and yet Russia acted as if Armenia is its own land and therefore its own laws apply. I guess that it is true, Armenia is a free country in name only, underneath it all, nothing has changed since the Soviet Union. Yet now God knows what happened to that murdering scumbag. And what mechanism exists for the Armenia to make sure he is jailed at ALL TIMES for the rest of his life? For all anyone knows, he is walking free in some village someplace, and when it is time for a “checkup” all he has to do is go back to jail for a day to show that he is still there, maybe once a year. And even if he is jailed, he now has a lot of advantages being in Russia, including being taken care of and pampered by his own family. Bottom line and pathetically, Russia takes care of Russians… and so does Armenia.

  2. Zartir Lao, above, sounds like an Azeri govt. operative trying to stir emotions rather than rational thought. The world isn’t a village like the village you come from where all that matters is you and your two cattles. The world is more complicated and what ever the evidence shows behind this murder, any action or inaction has to be measured against National Interest.

    • Apres axpers, es toxom em qez vor verevi chatlaxin xpes…
      Sadly, these people’s take on politics is on the level of a child’s IQ.
      Had it not been for the Russian presence in the region, Lao and his like would still be sowing shoes for this Turkish or Iranian masters…

    • Armenoid Based on your response I have no doubt your IQ is in the single digits. You sound like a street thug who was just let out of a barn. If you are going to make any remarks you should learn how to talk first. You sound so pathetic with your tribal mentality. Who are “these people” you are talking about with your backward village mentality? Learn how to debate instead of trying to categorize and stereo type people based on your self-hating prejudices. Learn how to get your points across like a normal human being instead of trying to shove your views down other people’s throats just because you don’t like what they say and just because they are different from yours. People like you who make such distinction among our people should be exposed and weeded out. From what I see it sure looks like you and the likes of you are the ones who have been sowing shoes for your Russian masters and continue to do so because you need to please them to feel good about yourselves. It is because of your slave mentality that our nation has been stagnant for so long. It is much easier for you to put down our people with your street mentality than to have the courage to speak out against your enemies. Really pathetic!

    • Toxek Xupem Would you say the same thing if a member of your own family was affected by such a tragedy? Would you give the murderer of your family member a pass for “national interest” or is it easier to make such excuses because this happened to someone else?

  3. The US has a similar law whereby any US soldier who commits a crime in a foreign land is immune to that country’s laws. Just google the numerous murders and rapes US soldiers have committed in South Korea, Okinawa and Afghanistan. Those governments cant touch the criminals. They’re often flown out of those countries within 2 weeks. Most militaries with overses bases have exactly the same rules. But I guess by stating the facts that makes me a “Russia worshipping slave” according to some people.

    • I don’t know where you get your information from but I suspect that it is a Russian “news” site as it is completely incorrect. Just check the NY Times 12/01/2017 article about the trial and conviction in a JAPANESE court of a US marine for murder.

    • Even if your claim was true, comparing the integrity-driven United States laws with that of a former Soviet Mafiosi Republic of Russia is laughable. The US has no motivation to make things easy for a criminal, the main intent is for the rule of law and to make any trial as fair as possible. The Russian style of law is “seasonal” and dependent on “The Dude in Charge”. And that style has trickled down to all the other ex-Soviet republics including Armenia. The countries that the USA might remove American troops for trial is based on ensuring that they get a fair trial typically because the countries in question are lawless banana republics which it may have engaged in hostilities with or militarily. Is that the case with Armenia?

    • Nice try Walter. As a former US service man I can tell you that what Gurgen2 stated is a fact. That particular case in Japan was so charged (because US troops were acting so recklessly aggressive for so many years in Japan) that US officials made an exception to calm down the fury that was building in Japan. Now, please run back off…

    • Gurgen, not only is your comment about the law concerning US soldiers abroad incorrect, you seem to have the entire context wrong. According to a bilateral treaty between Armenia and Russia (mentioned in this very article), criminal cases involving Russian military personnel and Armenian civilians are under the jurisdiction of the Armenian justice system, not Russia’s. The whole issue is that Russia violated this agreement.

  4. RIP an God bless- we know the true enemies and why the Russians r in Armenia-they are rascists to the max and maybe the US Libards need to go live there and see what they do to others- We Armeninas will never die-Russia is nothing wihtout us and others- the brains

    • George Do you realize when you say such things you are disrespecting the memories of thousands of dedicated Armenians who gave their lives to free Artsakh from artificial pseudo-Turkish Azerbaijan republic? Don’t you realize you are undermining all the sacrifices our people have made to accomplish this despite all odds? Don’t you even know that it is the combined Armenian and Russian forces that are watching and defending the Armenia-Turkish border and that Russia has no obligation in regards to Armenia-Azerbaijan borders and the conflict and that it is our brave men and women who are on the front lines defending our borders there? It is true we get weapons from the Russians, just like our enemy does, but rest-assured it is our nation that is doing the fighting and the defending. You have alot to learn if you don’t know this already. In fact, I would not put it pass the Russians to stir up the Armenia-Azerbaijani border for their own self-interests in the region. Think about what you say and stop making bumper-sticker remarks about who you only imagine is protecting our borders.

  5. I mean…this “Armenoid”, guy or girl (probably just an Armenian hater based on his name), says that Armenia would be Turkish if not for Russia. Well,guess what fam? It is better off for Russia to kill our people than it is the Turks! Let’s all celebrate this! We can all get killed by Russians with no impunity so long as we remember that we would all be Turks by now. Hooray!

  6. Russian soldiers in Armenia are nothing but undisciplined SOBs.The Russians have send the type of soldiers in Armenia, drunken bumbs, racists and probably some criminals.It is the Aremenian government to protects its citizens from these monsters. For how long are those Russians going to kill Armenians ,are they here to protect us or destroy us.The Russian government should pay monetary damages to the family of the victims.Armenia should make a law to have them pay for the damages they create. Armenians still have that slave mentality that we should get rid of.We didn t get rid of the Azeris to be massacred by those bully Russians.

  7. You guys critical of my posts about Russia should listen to Ararat. You are welcomed to prove me wrong by stating facts, in fact for the sake of Armenia, I wish that I was wrong. But every point I have made thus far, I have not seen any adequate rebuttal or proof to the contrary. And if I pose a question, there is no satisfactory answer. For example as an example, in light of the constantly shoved down our throats claim of the “Russia-Armenia Friendship”, you are welcomed to answer this… what does it mean when a “friend and ally” has two of its subjects engage in a war, with one side clearly being the aggressor (Azerbaijan) and the other side clearly the defender (Armenia) and that the “friend and ally” tells its two subjects “both sides must stop” when Armenians suffered such losses as a result of that aggression by Azerbaijan???? WHAT DID RUSSIA MEAN BY THAT????

    Well my prediction is, any answer I will get will be just another excuse in a long line of excuses. That is actually a good explanation of the subservient Armenia to Russia relations: excuse after excuse after excuse. And without exception, ALL the excuses are typically why Armenia must be at a disadvantage and Turkey/Azerbaijan as an advantage “and we must accept these facts” a principle practiced and forced by both Russia and the West against Armenia for the past century. But Russia needs to take most of the blame as the “regional host”.

    And in case you guys are all wondering why I am making these posts about Russia. What actually did it for me was April of 2016. Against all the lies we had been fed until that time about the rosy Russia-Armenia relations, I suddenly saw solid proof of the fake, two-faced nature of Russia, the incompetence of Armenian leadership, and the mythical “Russia-Armenia Friendship” narrative.

  8. Don’t feel so bad, we have a similar situation here in the United States. Every four years a presidential candidate promises to recognize the Armenian Genocide.

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