Military Prosecutor is calling for an investigation
by the Ministry of Defense.
The murders of three soldiers in Vanadzor last
week may be linked to bribery and payment for
privilege among conscripts. The widely practiced
(but officially denied) means of survival in the
Armenian Army is one of many conditions that make
conscription a horror for thousands of young Armenian
On August 6 brothers Levon (age 21) and Hamlet
Baghdasaryan (24) and fellow soldier Arman Davtyan
were gunned down in a civilian neighborhood of
the northern city where the three lived lives
that hardly matched the common definition of conscription.
All three were residents of Yerevan, and university
According to neighbors in the area, the soldiers
lived in a house known as a residence for "soldiers"
whose families can afford to pay for their sons
to be exempt from all semblance of military service
except the paperwork. They wore civilian clothes,
enjoyed the use of mobile phones, shopped, and
took their meals in the city.
Around 5:30 a.m., the three were shot to death
from more than 20 machine gun rounds while the
victims patrolled (unarmed) a military warehouse.
An investigation has ruled out robbery, as evidence
emerged that led to the arrests of two other soldiers,
Arman Hovsepyan and Emil Chifchyan.
According to the investigation of the Military
Prosecutor's Office, the murders may have been
linked to a deal in which Chifchyan paid Davtyan
(who carried the rank of junior sergeant) $50
to organize a leave for Chifchyan.
The leave never materialized. Now it is alleged
that Chifchyan took an AKS-M submachine gun with
him when he went to the warehouse to get an explanation
from Davtyan. No official information has been
released that would suggest why the Baghdasaryan
brothers were also killed. Hovsepyan is charged
with having taken the gun from an armory and giving
it to Chifchyan.
It is a common practice in the Armenian Army
that soldiers, especially of lower rank or status,
bribe officers or better-connected comrades for
special treatment, including leaves.
Of course the system is not part of official
Army protocol, so it is unknown exactly who profits.
It is believed, however, that Davtyan was paid
to be Chifchyan's mediator, though typically soldiers
pay bribes directly to officers for such privileges
The Military Prosecutor also blames officers
in connection with Hovsepyan's alleged role in
"It's obvious that officers of the unit
and commanding staff have a portion of guilt in
that incident," said Military Prosecutor
Gagik Jhangiryan. "That day Arman Hovsepyan
was on duty in his battalion and not only couldn't
leave his post, but he had no right to open an
armory building and take a gun."
Chifchyan, who was taken to service in May, is
charged with premeditated murder with aggravated
circumstance. Hovsepyan is charged with accessory
to murder. No officers have been charged in connection
with the murders.
If Hovsepyan's alleged role is in fact true,
his family believes his participation could also
be retaliation for harsh treatment at the hands
of privileged soldiers.
According to Hovsepyan's brother, Armen: "During
his whole service in the army Arman was taking
money to his military unit. He took approximately
700 grams of gold jewelry and sold it for 100,000
drams (about $200) to a woman working in a kiosk
near the unit.
"He didn't tell us in details but he said
that he was forced to do that as if he didn't
(soldiers or officers) told him they would kill
him. Last time before this incident when Arman
came home he was beaten and his whole face was
swollen. He took $100 (back to the post). He had
been pushed during one year and nine months in
the unit," say Arman's brothers.
Hovsepyan has only three months left on his two-year
"My son was cultivating land with me in
the village," says Arman Hovsepyan's father,
Varazdat, who is a shepard. "I gave a soldier
to my homeland. Why are they turning him into
The warehouse where the murder took place is
located in the center of Vanadzor on Teryan 4
Street next to residential buildings. Neighbors
say it is used to store clothes which were once
produced in a Vanadzor textile mill. It is about
15 kilometers from the military post.
The official explanation for why the warehouse
is military property is that until two years ago
it was used for producing uniforms for the army.
Head of the Vanadzor branch of the Helsinki Citizen's
Assembly, Artur Sakunts, says that this incident
is unique as it took place in the center of the
"Up to now all military crimes have been
committed in the military units and were connected
with officers or the front line. In this case
it was committed in the center of the city. We
can say that those three conscripts were on 'alternative'
military service," says Sakunts.
"Old clothes are kept in that warehouse.
If it is of no military importance then why is
it regarded as a military post?"
Many people in Vanadzor have an answer to Sakunts'
question. They know the building as a place where
"alternative" service is assigned to
any conscript who can afford to pay a commander
$2,000 to $3,000 for the privilege to "serve"
"Conscripts passing their military service
here have privileged status. It means that privileged
conditions were created for some citizens or conscripts
and it is natural that such an abnormal situation
would have such a result," concludes Sakunts.
"We have been living here for 20 years and
there have always been conscripts here but before
everything were stricter," said one neighbor
who was afraid to give her name. "Conscripts
who haven't got money don't come here."
One resident said she knew one of the victims,
whom she called Sevuk. She said she'd offered
to do his laundry, but he refused.
The Baghdasaryan brothers came from a family
known to be well off due to its business affiliations
that include distribution of petrol.
That business tie has led to speculation in Vanadzor
that the murders had nothing to do with the military,
but that in fact it was the brothers who were
actually targets of murder - a "revenge"
killing related to mafia-controlled ownership
of Armenia's petrol industry.
"Always children of rich people served in
that post," the neighbor said. "People
driving different foreign cars visit them on Sundays
or Saturdays. On the day of the incident I saw
a woman getting out of a light colored BMW loudly
crying and shouting. I realized that they had
been parents of those two brothers. That car was
often coming here.
"As soon as the mother of the brothers
got out the car she attacked the Military Prosecutor.
She was saying: 'Give my children back'."
The Military Prosecutor's Office made a plea
to the Ministry of Defense to determine if there
is cause for changes in conditions in the Army
"so that the public doesn't lose confidence
in its army".