YEREVAN — Russia has agreed to allow Armenian law-enforcement authorities to prosecute a Russian soldier who has confessed to murdering the seven members of an Armenian family in Gyumri last January, President Serzh Sarkisian announced on Friday.
Sarkisian was cited by his press office as revealing a Russian “decision to transfer the murder case to the jurisdiction of Armenia’s Investigative Committee” at a meeting with Russia’s visiting Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov. He also spoke of its “further judicial investigation by a relevant Armenian body.”
Russian soldier Valery Permyakov, stationed at the Russian 102nd military base in Gyumri, was charged with killing a local couple, their daughter, son, daughter-in-law and 2-year-old granddaughter and stabbing a 6-month-old baby boy, who died later in hospital. Permyakov admitted murdering the entire family during his separate interrogations by Russian and Armenian law-enforcement officials. His motives remain still unclear. He has been kept under arrest at the Gyumri headquarters of the Russian military base
A statement by the office did not clarify whether this means that Permyakov will be extradited to Armenian investigators or at least be tried by an Armenian court.
Russian authorities made clear immediately after the shock massacre that Permyakov will not be extradited to Armenia. This caused outrage in Armenia, with many fearing a Russian cover-up of the case. Thousands of people demonstrated in Gyumri on January 14-15 to demand Permyakov’s handover to the Armenian side. Some of them clashed with riot police near the local Russian consulate in Armenia’s second largest city.
The unprecedented protests forced Armenia’s Prosecutor-General Gevorg Kostanian to formally ask his Russian counterpart Yuri Chayka to ensure that the high-profile case is transferred to Armenian jurisdiction. Still, even after Kostanian’s letter to Chayka Russian officials insisted that the detained soldier will be tried by a Russian military court.
Sarkisian’s announcement of what looks like a Russian U-turn on the issue came amid continuing street protests in Yerevan against electricity price hikes initiated by Armenia’s Russian-owned power distribution network.