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Armenian Officials Deny Russian Role In 1999 Parliament Carnage
By Ruzanna Stepanian
Armenian officials on Wednesday categorically denied allegations by a
fugitive Russian security officer that the October 1999 attack on
Armenia's parliament, which left eight people dead, was orchestrated by
Colonel Aleksandr Litvinenko, a former senior official at Russia's
Federal Security Service (FSB) who now lives in Britain, claimed in a
recent interview with an Azerbaijani online publication that Moscow
hatched the plot to prevent a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh
`It is well know to many chiefs of Russian special services that the
1999 shootings in the Armenian parliament was organized by Russia's GRU
[military intelligence],' Litvinenko said. `With that special operation,
Russia's political leadership managed to prevent the signing of a peace
agreement resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.'
He added that President Robert Kocharian and his then Azerbaijani
counterpart Heydar Aliev were due to sign a peace deal during the
December 1999 summit in Istanbul of the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe.
Kocharian and Aliev reportedly made progress toward a peaceful
settlement in the months leading up to the assassination of Armenia's
former Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian, parliament speaker Karen
Demirchian and six other officials. The then U.S. Deputy Secretary of
State Strobe Talbot discussed the Karabakh peace process with Armenian
leaders in Yerevan just hours before five gunmen burst into the National
The gunmen led by Nairi Hunanian, a former journalist, were sentenced to
life imprisonment in December 2003 following a lengthy trial.
The spokesman for Armenia's National Security Service, Artsvin
Baghramian, ruled out any Russian involvement in the killings that had
plunged Armenia into a grave political crisis and set back the Karabakh
peace process. `Not a single fact or even a hint relating to
Litvinenko's theory emerged during the trial,' he told RFE/RL.
Garnik Isagulian, Kocharian's national security adviser, was even more
categorical, dismissing Litvinenko as a `sick man.' `We are not obliged
to refute or confirm the products of someone's morbid imagination,' he
`An Armenian court handed down a ruling in connection with the case and
the issue was closed,' Isagulian said.
Hunanian insisted throughout the trial that he himself masterminded and
carried out the attack to rid Armenia of its `corrupt' government.
However, his final court speech, cut short by the presiding judge, was
more ambiguous. The judge argued that the question of whether the armed
gang had powerful backers is the subject of a separate investigation
that was still going on at the time.
The inquiry was led by Armenia's Chief Military Prosecutor Gagik
Jahangirian. He has suggested in the past that Hunanian and his henchmen
did not act on their own.
Jahangirian and his team of investigators claimed to have continued to
look for possible masterminds of the attack even after the gunmen went
on trial in 2001. The case was transferred under the jurisdiction of
Prosecutor-General's Office in 2003 for unknown reasons. It was
eventually closed for lack of evidence.
Some relatives and friends of the assassinated officials, among them two
of Armenia's most popular opposition leaders, suspect Kocharian of
having a hand in the killings and have openly accused him of obstructing
justice. Kocharian and his supporters have always dismissed the charges.
[[Category:Armenian Individuals|Hunanian, Nairi]]
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