Armenians Charged In Russian Officer’s Killing Plead Not Guilty

By Ruzanna Khachatrian

Radio Liberty, Czech Republic
Aug 14 2007

The lawyer of two Armenians charged with killing a Russian serviceman
says his clients deny the charges brought against them by prosecutors.

Yenok Azarian on Tuesday said the murder charges did not correspond
to the evidence available in the case.

At the same time he warned some public circles against trying to look
for ethnic motives behind the incident.

"An incident happened for which we, of course, feel sorry. I don’t
see any point in politicizing the case. The pain is deep no matter
whether a Russian or an Armenian died and it shouldn’t influence the
legal estimations," Azarian said in an RFE/RL interview. "I have a
premonition that my clients may become victims of public emotions."

Artem Andreasian and Gor Balian, both 30 years old, are charged with
killing 22-year Dmitry Yermolov, a Russian military officer stationed
in Armenia, on August 6 night.

According to prosecutors, the two Armenians stopped a car carrying
five Russian soldiers and started a fight. They reportedly beat two
Russian servicemen before firing at their vehicle from hunting rifles,
fatally wounding one passenger, who died later on the way to hospital.

The crime occurred in the village of Arinj on the outskirts of Yerevan
and prosecutors say it stemmed from a quarrel.

Last week Andreasian and Balian were charged on two counts of Armenia’s
penal code: article 118 (beating) and points 6 and 10 of part 2 of
article 104 (a murder committed in a manner dangerous for the lives
of many people; for motives of hooliganism).

Both face 8 to 15 years in prison or a life sentence under the murder
charge and a fine of 100,000 drams (approx. $300) or two months in
jail the longest under the charge of beating.

Several forensic examinations had been appointed, including medical,
ballistic and chemical to establish a number of circumstances in the
case that, according to the spokesperson for the Prosecutor-General’s
Office, might change the volume of the indictment.

A bullet was found in the body of the killed Russian officer, but
experts are yet to establish whether it was released by Andreasian
or Balian.

Azarian says his clients know whose shot killed the Russian officer.

But the lawyer refused to go into detail, saying that the ongoing
investigation would provide answers in time. He only said that the
incident happened "in the wrong place and at the wrong time", but
refused to elaborate beyond that.

Some Armenian press publications have alleged that the two worked for
oligarch Gagik Tsarukian’s security. But sources close to Tsarukian
have denied this information.

The reported crime scene near the village of Arinj is in the vicinity
of Tsarukian’s property.

Azarian said he was hired by the families of Andriasian and Balian
that he said lived in "very bad social conditions".

However, he did not deny that the two had been on some sort of "duty"
on the night when the incident occurred.

"I know they are residents of the village of Arinj, live in very bad
conditions. Andreasian has a four-year-old daughter. Balian is a father
of three. Neither of them has a previous conviction," Azarian said.

"There is a public indignation at what people perceive as an atmosphere
of impunity. But there are also two men who are isolated today and
need defending," the lawyer concluded.

Representatives of the victim and his legal successor were not
available for comment.