Former Armenian Security Chief Found Shot Dead (UPDATED)
• Marine Khachatrian
• Tatevik Lazarian
Armenia - Georgi Kutoyan, the former director of the National Security Service.
Georgi Kutoyan, who headed Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) in the
final years of former President Serzh Sarkisian’s rule, was found shot to death
in Yerevan on Friday.
A spokeswoman for the Investigative Committee, Naira Harutiunian, reported in
the afternoon that Kutoyan’s body had a gunshot wound then it was discovered by
his wife at his Yerevan apartment “a short while ago.”
Forensic experts and other officers of the law-enforcement agency are already
“working at the scene,” Harutiunian wrote on Facebook.
A high-ranking Investigative Committee official, Artur Melikian, said later in
the day that preliminary indications are that Kutoyan, 38, was killed by a
gunshot fired at his head. But investigators also found dozens of bullets in the
apartment and forensic experts will determine whether those were fired from the
same pistol, he told reporters outside the apartment building cordoned off by
Melikian said that premeditated murder is therefore one of the theories of
Kutoyan’s death considered by the investigators.
“We don’t yet have information that anyone heard gunshots,” he said, adding that
more residents of the apartment block will be questioned in the coming days.
A lawyer by education, Kutoyan had worked as an assistant to Sarkisian from 2011
until his surprise appointment as director of the NSS in February 2016. He was
sacked by newly elected Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian in May 2018 immediately
after the “Velvet Revolution” that toppled the country’s former leader.
Kutoyan has made no public statements since then. He also kept a low profile
during his tenure.
Armenia -- President Serzh Sarkisian talks to the newly appointed National
Service Chief Georgi Kutoyan, 12Feb2016
Sarkisian offered condolences to Kutoyan’s family and said he is “deeply
shocked” by the death of the former NSS chief whom described as a highly
competent and “decent” individual. In a statement, the ex-president also called
for public scrutiny of the unfolding probe of his death.
Armen Ashotian, the deputy chairman of Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia
(HHK), also expressed shock at the “murder” of Kutoyan. “This tragic incident is
very strange and raises many questions,” he wrote, demanding a “transparent and
comprehensive” investigation from law-enforcement authorities.
Edmon Marukian, the leader of another opposition party, Bright Armenia, likewise
demanded that relevant authorities find “clear answers to many questions”
resulting from the fatal shooting.
“This is an unexpected and shocking development which we need to seriously
analyze and understand … what caused it,” Alen Simonian, a senior lawmaker
representing the ruling My Step bloc, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Simonian suggested vaguely that Kutoyan’s death is one of the “echoes of the
past which we are still hearing.” He declined to elaborate.
Kutoyan is the second former senior security official found shot dead in the
last four months. Hayk Harutiunian, a former chief of the Armenian police, was
found dead in his country house in September.
Harutiunian reportedly had a gunshot wound to his head. Investigators suggested
that he committed suicide.
In the months leading up to his death, Harutiunian was repeatedly interrogated
in an ongoing criminal investigation into the 2008 post-election violence in
Yerevan. The Special Investigative Service, which is conducting that inquiry,
told the Armenpress news agency that it never questioned Kutoyan as a witness or
The Investigative Committee and the NSS did not investigate or interrogate
Kutoyan either, according to the committee spokeswoman.
Armenian Gas Operator May Seek Price Rise
• Robert Zargarian
Armenia - The Gazprom Armenia headquarters in Yerevan, October 31, 2014.
Armenia’s national gas distribution company owned by Russia’s Gazprom giant
confirmed on Friday that it may ask public utility regulators to raise its
retail prices set for households and corporate consumers.
“The company is discussing the issue of revising the tariffs,” said a spokesman
for the Gazprom Armenia network. He did not specify the scale of the possible
The retail prices are set by the Public Services Regulatory Commission (PRSC).
Its chairman, Garegin Baghramian, did not comment on the likelihood of their
increase when he spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service. He said only that the two
sides are continuing their discussions on “long-term pricing.”
The cost of Russian gas supplied to Armenian consumers remained unchanged after
Gazprom raised its wholesale price for Armenia from $150 to $165 per thousand
cubic meters in January 2019. This translated into additional major expenses for
Gazprom Armenia, which already reported growing financial losses in the course
of 2018. Armenian officials have said until now that the gas network can offset
those losses through cost-cutting.
In a statement issued on New Year’s Eve, Gazprom announced that it will not
raise further the price of gas supplied to its Armenian subsidiary at least
before the end of 2020.
The announcement came after months of negotiations between Armenian and Russian
government officials and Gazprom executives. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol
Pashinian and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the issue when they met
in Yerevan in October.
“We talked about a gas price for Armenia that will not break Armenia’s economic
dynamics,” Pashinian said afterwards.
One of Pashinian’s deputies, Mher Grigorian, expressed confidence in November
that the domestic gas tariffs will not rise before April 2020.
Armenian households currently pay 139 drams (30 U.S. cents) per cubic meter of
Parliament Attack Ringleader Appeals To Pashinian
• Sargis Harutyunyan
Armenia - A screenshot of TV footage of gunmen opening fire in the Armenian
parliament on 27 October, 1999.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s office on Friday confirmed reports that he has
received a letter from the jailed man who led a deadly attack on the Armenian
parliament in 1999.
The office declined to disclose the content of the letter sent by Nairi Hunanian.
An obscure former journalist, Hunanian led an armed group that burst into the
National Assembly and sprayed it with bullets on October 27, 1999. Then Prime
Minister Vazgen Sarkisian, parliament speaker Karen Demirchian and six other
officials were killed in the shooting spree that thrust Armenia’s government
Hunanian accused the government of corruption and misrule and called for regime
change as he held dozens of parliament deputies and government officials hostage
following the killings. He and the four other gunmen, including his brother
Karen and uncle Vram Galstian, surrendered to police after overnight
negotiations with then President Robert Kocharian. The gunmen were subsequently
tried and sentenced to life in prison.
Hunanian became eligible for parole in October last year because of having spent
20 years in prison. He asked appropriate authorities to set him free. The
application was rejected.
The jailed ringleader, who turned 54 recently, appears to have written to
Pashinian shortly after law-enforcement authorities decided late last month
resume a criminal investigation into the 1999 killings. They will presumably try
to establish whether Hunanian’s armed group had powerful sponsors outside the
Some relatives and supporters of the assassinated officials still suspect former
Kocharian and his successor President Serzh Sarkisian (no relation to Vazgen),
who was Armenia’s national security minister in October 1999, of masterminding
the killings to eliminate powerful rivals. Both men repeatedly dismissed such
suggestions during and after a serious political crisis caused by the killings.
Throughout his and his henchmen’s marathon trial Hunanian insisted that he
himself had decided to seize the parliament without anybody's orders.
“Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” accuses Armenia’s former rulers of plotting to overthrow
the current government and alleges that members of the Constitutional Court are
part of this creeping “coup.” “At any moment they may decide to declare Nikol
Pashinian’s government illegal,” claims the paper. It says that they are not
only spreading fake news but also trying to form “some counterweight against the
“Haykakan Zhamanak” complains that most Armenians still feel that people
demonstrating against various government decisions or policies are definitely
right. “The reasons for this sentiment are understandable,” writes the paper.
“With a handful of exceptions, this has for decades been the case in Armenia. In
hopes of solving their problems, victims of one or another injustice simply
organized protests, having no other means of communication with the authorities
… We now have a situation where everyone is by and large in favor of changes and
believes that Armenia must become a more modern state. But everyone thinks that
everything except the ‘traditional’ practices of their sphere must change.” The
paper says that this sentiment is fanned and exploited by the country’s former
“Aravot” comments on Armenian reactions to Human Rights Watch’s latest annual
report on human rights practices around the world, including Armenia. The paper
says pro-government and opposition forces cherry-picked different parts of the
report fitting their conflicting political agendas. “The authorities maintain
that Human Rights Watch glorified Armenia’s post-revolution achievements while
the oppositions are convinced that the organization voiced devastating criticism
of the state of human rights in Armenia,” it says.
Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
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