Shock and Questions: Gyumri mourns murders as it looks for reasons

A makeshift vigil has appeared in front of the home of the Avetisyans in Gyumri following six murders that occurred there, shocking residents of Armenia’s “second city”.

Seryozha Avetisyan, his wife Hasmik, daughter Aida, son Armen, daughter-in-law Araksya, and two-year-old granddaughter Hasmik, were murdered in their home Monday. Only a six month old boy survived, and is hospitalized with stab wounds.

Valeri Permyakov, a Russian soldier stationed at nearby base No. 102 has been arrested and has confessed to the murders.

Permyakov was caught “as a result of joint measures” taken by the Russian border guards and Armenian security forces.

Russian investigators will lead the criminal investigation into the case.

The extraordinary crime created unease in Gyumri yesterday until the suspect was caught. Today the situation is comparatively calm, Gyumri-Asparez daily Editor Levon Barseghyan said.

“Because the Russians are investigating it is possible we and even the Armenian government are not privy to some details.

Yesterday Russian soldiers with rifles on their shoulders were searching for a criminal in the streets, and, by international agreement, they do not have such rights unless there is a direct danger threatening their families or crews. The whole point was to find him first,” Barseghyan told ArmeniaNow.

It is not the first case when the Russian military base has been connected with a major crime in the city.

In 1999 Gyumri was shocked when on April 14 two Russian servicemen of the Russian garrison border guards stationed at the base, Denisi Popov and Alexander Karmenev, left the base and opened fire randomly in Gyumri’s central market, killing 44 year-old Vaghinak Simonyan and 57-year-old Davit Soghomonyan.

On April 7, 2013 two children were killed by a mine as they were reportedly playing in the base’s tank shooting range.

Monday’s shocking multiple murders have caused a wave of anti-Russian sentiment among some residents. Many have voiced anti-Russian feelings on Facebook. Others, however, say that the nationality of the killer or of the killed has no bearing on why it happened.

In Gyumri, and indeed throughout Armenia, many wait for answers as the investigation has begun.