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Cablegate: Settling Scores On the Street in Armenia

VZCZCXRO2334
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHYE #1457/01 2910408
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 180408Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY YEREVAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4195
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 YEREVAN 001457

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/CARC AND DRL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL AM
SUBJECT: SETTLING SCORES ON THE STREET IN ARMENIA

REF: YEREVAN 1217

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. PLEASE HANDLE ACCORDINGLY.

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SUMMARY
-------

1. (U) Oligarchs and thugs have taken to settling scores on the
street in greater numbers in the last few months, and high-profile
assassinations and murder attempts are on the rise in Armenia.
Though the crimes do not appear to be related, and in most cases the
motives are unclear, the increase in violence may indicate a new
trend in domestic politics. END SUMMARY.

-----------------------------------
BUSINESSMAN FOUND BEHEADED IN A CAR
-----------------------------------

2. (U) On September 30, 2006, the beheaded body of businessman Artur
Khalatian was discovered in a car parked in a garage in the village
of Zar. Khalatian was one of the heads of the "Avia-Service"
company, which belongs to oligarch Gagik Tsarukian, the founder of
the new Prosperous Armenia political party. According to local
press reports, police said Khalatian was killed by Robert Sargsian,
a man who said he wanted to buy Khalatian's Yerevan apartment. The
police told the press that Khalatian went to Sargsian's village to
collect the USD 140,000 payment for the apartment. According to
police, Sargsian and two friends killed Khalatian and hid the body
in the trunk of his car, where Sargsian's family found it. Police
have arrested one suspect, Tatoul Mirzoyan, but Sargsian and his
cousin Henrik Hovnikian are still wanted.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
NK VETERANS' UNION MEMBER SHOT DEAD IN DRIVE-BY ATTACK
--------------------------------------------- ---------

3. (SBU) Sedrak Zatikian, an influential Yerkrapah (NK war veterans'
political movement) leader was shot dead in broad daylight while
driving his car in late June. A bystander was also killed in the
crossfire. Despite his youth, the 26-year-old Zatikian was wealthy,
relatively powerful and notorious. He headed a suburban Yerevan
chapter of Yerkrapah (literally "Defenders of the Land") and earned
his infamy for assaulting the nephew of powerful parliamentary
deputy Hakob Hakobian in 2004. Zatikian managed to avoid
prosecution by hiding from police for several months and then making
peace with Hakobian's clan. Another of Hakobian's nephews was
arrested in connection with Zatikian's death, but was charged only
with illegal arms possession.

4. (U) Zatikian's funeral was a mafia-style affair, and mourners'
cars crowded the streets of Noy, an affluent subdivision that is
also home to many Embassy families. Streets surrounding the area
were blocked for hours.

---------------------------------------------
FORMER INTERIOR MINISTER BLAMES PM FOR ATTACK
---------------------------------------------

5. (U) Opposition politician Suren Abrahamian, a former interior
minister and mayor of Yerevan, was reportedly attacked near his
house by unidentified men on October 8, sustaining minor injuries.
Abrahamian's Republic Party fingered Prime Minister Andranik
Markarian in what they called "an act of political intimidation" by
the government. Markarian denied any involvement. Abrahamian, who
is a vocal detractor of the Armenian government in general and
presidential front-runner Defense Minister Serzh Sargsian in
particular, recently had criticized the prime minister publicly,
calling him a "criminal element." Abrahamian told the press that
one of his assailants demanded he apologize for his statements but
did not specify which statements, nor to whom he should apologize.
"Whether or not he ordered the attack, Prime Minister Andranik
Markarian is responsible for what happened," Abrahamian told a news
conference.

-------------------------------
POLICE CHIEF SHOT IN HIS GARAGE
-------------------------------

6. (U) Police General Aram Zakarian, the chief of the special
protection department of the National Police, was wounded after
being attacked October 4 in his garage by an armed man.

--------------------------------------------- -
FINANCE MINISTER UNSURE WHETHER HE WAS SHOT AT
--------------------------------------------- -

7. According to local press, Finance Minister Vardan Khachatrian
reported to police that someone shot at him on October 2 while he

YEREVAN 00001457 002 OF 002


sat in a cafe with friends. Police reportedly interrogated everyone
who was at the caf while the minister was there, but nobody
corroborated his report. Khachatrian then said he had been drunk
while at the caf, and that there had not been a shooting. However,
the following day, the minister said there had in fact been a
shooting. The Prosecutor General's office told us the shooting had
taken place, but that it was not aimed at the minister, and that
Khachatrian had fulfilled his "civic duty" by reporting the case to
the police. (NOTE: This case is still a mystery; we saw one article
on it October 5, and then it disappeared from the news. END NOTE.)

-------
COMMENT
-------

8. Though these incidents, together with the car-bomb death of a
senior tax inspector (reftel), indicate a trend, there is no clear
link between them. What is clear is that the perpetrators of these
crimes are brazen and have committed several of them in broad
daylight. Almost all of the victims and assailants in these
incidents have reputations for criminal activity. It's possible
their undercover maneuverings have begun to morph into public
clashes, in which case we may reasonable expect more to come as the
parliamentary elections approach.

GODFREY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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