Gunshots were fired, a brawl disrupted a political
rally, and a Member of Parliament was seriously
wounded from knife stabs Tuesday as Armenia's
Presidential election campaign completed its second
Hayk Babukhanyan, 39, deputy head of the Union
of Constitutional Right, is recovering from life-threatening
chest wounds. The incident took place in the town
of Artashat during a campaign stop in support
of candidate Aram Karapetyan, UCR's nominee for
Hryar Khachatryan, head of Karapetyan's regional
staff, said his office had been warned of potential
violence should they proceed with plans to hold
a rally in the town, a stronghold of President
The President issued a statement condemning the
attack and ordered an investigation and punishment
for the perpetrators.
crowd had gathered prior to the candidate's arrival
in Artashat and "didn't let us place loud-speakers
and other equipments that we had sent," said
Khachatryan. "We stood on the stage with
Babukhanyan and tried to start talking using loud-speakers
but 40-50 people, they were drunk or something
else, started to agitate, curse and whistle then
they attacked us."
Other eyewitnesses say some in the crowd were
armed with sticks and metal poles.
According to the head of the regional staff,
at the moment of attack Babukhanyan shot his handgun
in the air. The deputy and those accompanying
him were thrown on the ground and beaten.
"Every part of my body was pounced on by
10 to 15 people and they were beating me,"
said Babukhanyan's bodyguard and driver Vahan
Ghazaryan. "I took a knife from them but
they threw me on the ground and were kicking.
The same they did with Mr. Babukhanyan."
Karapetyan's staff called the brawl "state
terrorism" and lay the blame on Kocharyan
Hrant Khachatryan, head of UCR, told reporters
the disruption and fight was organized by supporters
of Kocharyan intimate Hovik Abrahamyan, Minister
of Regional Administration. Khachatryan added
that he was born in Artashat, knows everyone in
the town and gave names of those with criminal
pasts who participated in the incident. No arrests
have been made.
Karapetyan staff members said they had notified
appropriate authorities of the rally five days
in advance and asked them to provide security,
as two other times during the short campaign meetings
had been disrupted.
Staff members and other eyewitnesses say that
several police were on hand but did not interfere
in the brawl. A statement from Karapetyan's campaign
accused law enforcement of "complete negligence".
The day after the brawl the Armenian Police released
a statement that implied that Babukhanyan was
to blame for the attack for firing shots into
the air in an attempt to quiet the crowd.
Presidential candidate Vazgen Manukyan (National
Democratic Union) told reporters he was also warned
against conducting a rally in Artashat by sources
claiming that they were under orders to disrupt
any such meeting.
Manukyan said that as his team reached Artashat
they were met by a drunken crowd "screaming
that nobody except Kocharyan can go there".
Manukyan (former Prime Minister and former Minister
of Defense) said the people in Artashat told him
they were"servants", adding that they
"won't be able to free themselves if Kocharyan
remains President for the following five years."
The episode lasted several hours according to
Manukyan, who said his staff had given local authorities
advance notice of their plans and had also notified
the President's campaign staff.
"I accuse the authorities, they were organizers,"
says Manukyan. "No regional official would
dare to do a thing like that if he or she hadn't
Before the incidents in Artashat the most extraordinary
case of alleged wrongdoing was in the Armavir
region (Echmiatsin) where it was charged that
village head Arakel Movsisyan (an associate of
the Ministry of Defense) warned people to not
go outside during a Stepan Demirchyan rally.
During a meeting with journalists concerning
the allegation, Movsisyan said he is a Kocharyan
supporter and that no other candidate would pass
"on his territory".