and Guns in public clashes.
A series of high-profile shootings and assassination
attempts, believed to be connected to the May
25 Parliament elections, are at the center of
press and public curiosity in Yerevan.
The first shot was heard at one in the morning,
June 6. Six more shot followed into the body of
Mushegh Azatyan, killing the Mafioso businessman
near the Aviatrans Hotel on Abovian Street.
Azatyan, 45, was one of the former owners of
Oshakan Wine Factory and was a known associate
of Viacheslav Ivankov (known regionally as "Yaponchik"),
an alleged Russian Mafioso currently in prison
in the United States.
According to Russian media, Azatyan's gang is
considered one of the most notorious in St. Petersburg
and consists primarily of members from Armenia
and Dagestan. Their repute stems from drug dealing
and they are known for being heavily armed.
According to a report in Ayb-Fe daily newpaper,
just before his murder, Azatyan had been in a
meeting with the brother of Minister of Defense
Serzh Sargsyan. Sargsyan's brother, the newspaper
reported, gave Azatyan a ride to the Aviatrans.
Azatyan's bodyguards were nearby at the time of
the shooting. No suspects have been indentified.
On the day after Azatyan's murder Artur Mkrtchyan
was shot to death at the corner of Pushkin and
Koghbatsi streets. It is unclear whether there
was any connection to the other murders, but according
to Azg newspaper, he was the son of a judge.
Not quite three weeks later, on June 25, two
well-connected figures and their taxi driver were
shot to death in their car by Russian-made automatic
weapons near the Nubarashen Avan garbage dump.
The dead included: Arkadi Gevorgyan, a nephew
of former Parliament Deputy Ruben Gevorgyan and
Garik Harutyunyan, deputy head of the health department
of the Ministry of Defense. Both men were in their
late 20s to early 30s. Arkadi Gevorgyan's brother
was seriously wounded in the shooting.
The June 25 shootings are believed to be the
continuation of a year-long clash of clans involving
businessmen "Tsaghik Rubo" and "Lfik
During Soviet times Ruben Gevorgyan (Tsaghik Rubo)
was convicted of murder. During the Karabakh War,
he headed the Sasna Tsrer brigade. His brother,
Samvel was killed in battle, leaving Gevorgyan
to care for his brother's sons.
In 2000, the dominating Hanrapetakan (Republican)
Party split. Some headed by Prime Minister Andranik
Margaryan remained pro-government and others became
opposition. Ruben Gevorgyan, who because of his
criminal conviction was not allowed to participate
in the 1995 parliamentary elections, was elected
in 1998. Gevorgyan joined the oppositional side
of the split party.
On July 13 of 2000 his nephew Artiom Gevorgyan
(the sole survivor of this summer's shooting)
and an associate committed an armed robbery of
a carpet store on Komitas Street. In exchange
for his nephew release from prosecution, Ruben
Gevorgyan renounced his support of the oppositional
In the recent election he lost re-election, but
retained his authority over the Davitashen district
Samvel Alexanyan (Lfik Samo), one of the wealthiest
men in Armenia, is the main importer of sugar,
grain production and medicines to Armenia. He
also owns restaurants and supermarkets. On May
25 he was elected and became a deputy of the National
Assembly. He was actively supporting Robert Kocharyan
during two presidential elections.
A long-standing clash between Alexanyan and Ruben
Gevorgyan heated up last year when Alexanyan attempted
to acquire new land in Davitashen, but was refused,
allegedly on orders from Gevorgyan to the head
of the district (one of Gevorgyan's men), Surik
Two hours after the Nurbarashen killings, Alexanyan's
brother-in-law Victor Manukyan and some friends
were fired upon. Manukyan escaped harm by lying
under his Niva. Two of Ruben Gevorgyan's intimates
were arrested on murder charges.
Since their conflict began, at least five murders
have resulted from the fighting. No arrests have
been made. Two associates of Alexanyan are wanted
in the Nubarashen slayings, plus one suspect who
previously was connected with Gevorkyan but later
became part of Alexanyan's clan.
A third public killing that took place on July
2 has no mafia connection but was nonetheless
On the morning of that day, the dean of the Department
of Russian Language and Literature of Yerevan
State University 43 year old Karen Mkrtchyan walked
his child to kindergarten. On his walk back home,
he was shot in the head from a passenger in a
passing Niva. He died on the spot.
Speculation of why Mkrtchyan was killed include
belief that he refused to accept a bribe to give
a student high marks for graduation. No one was
Nine days later, July 11, in the center of Gyumri
shootings took place between associates of competing
transport routes who were said to be vying for
ownership of routes, particularly the Gyumri-Yerevan
According to official statements, Trans Akntart
director Serob Grigoryan and his competitor Jirair
Harutyunyan (a relative of the leader of the Gyumri
chapter of Orinats Yerkir political party) were
arguing in a café on Victory Avenue. The
two decided to discuss their difference in the
seat of a Mercedes Benz owned by one of Harutyunyan's
In the car, Harutyunyan took out his handgun
and fired two shots into the head of Grigoryan.
He then got out of the car and opened fire on
Grigoryan's men, wounding Gor Stepanyan. One of
Grigoryan's men returned fire, wounding Harutyunyan.
Wounded and bleeding, Stepanyan walked to where
Harutyunyan was lying on the ground and put a
bullet in his head.
The bloody shoot out that left two dead and one
wounded took place 50 meters from the Gyumri Prosecutor's
Office. Two suspects were arrested.
Transport routes have always been a profitable
business, with most owners enjoying "shelter"
from prominent and/or powerful authorities. They
have been the source of conflict, but residents
of Armenia can't recall any such public shootout
as the one in Gyumri, for any reason.
Eleven days later, July 22: At about 10 a.m. Hanrapetakan
party member and head of the Erebuni community,
Mher Sedrakyan (Mher of Tokhmakh), was driven
in his Mercededs to a gas station he owns. As
soon as his driver got out of the car, the Mercedes
exploded (from a remote-control bomb), shattering
the petrol station windows. Sedrakyan was severely
injured and taken to hospital. His injuries are
no longer life-threatening.
"Ayb-Fe" links the main motive of
Sedrakyan's murder attempt to competition for
control of the interior construction materials
business. Sedrakyan and his brother own one factory
and another competing factory is owned by a member
of the Hayrapetyan clan, businessman Misha Kalantaryan.
Last June, Kalantaryan confessed to murdering
businessman Hovhannes Manukyan in front of several
witnesses while Manukyan attended services marking
the seventh day of a friend's death.
Last December, a judge found Kalantaryan guilty
of murder, but dismissed sentence, saying he was
mentally unstable. The accused did not attend
(During the 80s Kalantaryan served a sentence
While at least three of the recent shootings
are connected to efforts at controlling profitable
enterprises, the press secretary of the Chief
Prosecutor's Office, Gurgen Ambaryan says their
timing is coincidental.
"These murders have no connection with each
other," Ambaryan says. "And only after
investigation can we say what the similarities
Officials say that the number of murders has
not significantly increased (39 in the first six
months of last year; 41 this year). But with the
recent series of shootings, some are speculating
that changes in political influence in Parliament
is creating instability among the powerful and
"For winning at the elections authorities
became allied to the criminal world and became
dependant on them," says political analyst
Yervand Bozoyan. "If several people were
promised one field, of course, several people
cannot have control over one field. So, they make
public clashes without having any fear of authorities."