Funeral of six members of the Avetisyan family in Gyumri

A forensic investigation into the January massacre of a six-member family in the northern Armenian city of Gyumri has determined that the victims resisted their killer; allegedly a Russian soldier stationed at the town’s Russian military base. The information, released on May 14 by lawyers for relatives of the murdered Avetisians, has rekindled anger over the bloodshed, which seriously strained Armenia’s strategic partnership with Russia.

Video footage of the crime scene and a physical examination of the bodies suggest that the family’s grandfather, Seryozha Avetisian, grabbed the barrel and bayonet of the assailant’s weapon, lawyer Lusine Sahakian told a Yerevan press-conference. Bruises were found on Avetisian’s body purportedly inflicted by the rifle butt, she added.

Avetisian’s wife, Asmik, “tried to get up from the bed, perhaps she even managed to do that, as her feet were hanging down from the bed,” Sahakian claimed.

The murderer than proceeded to another room, where he shot dead the couple’s son, Armen, and his toddler-daughter, Asmik. Contrary to initial official claims, Armen was found dead on the floor next to his bed.

He then stabbed to death Armen’s wife, Araksia Pogosian, and baby-son, Seryozha, who later succumbed to his injuries in a hospital. “Araksia Pogosian tried to protect little Seryozha with her body,” claimed Sahakian. “She has a wound on her hand, which was most likely inflicted when she was trying to protect the child from a knife.”

The harrowing details have rekindled popular outrage against both Russia’s 102nd military base in Gyumri and at the Armenian authorities, who could not place the suspect in an Armenian jail. Permyakov, who has confessed to the killings, remains in Russian custody.

Both the suspect’s motives and the circumstances of the massacre remain unclear. Armenian and Russian sides are conducting separate investigations into the case, though Moscow claims they are working together.

Saying that a “full and objective” investigation into the deaths is impossible without coordination with Russian investigators’ work, Sahakian stated that lawyers for the family’s heirs intends to petition the European Court of Human Rights if such coordination does not occur.

Armenia requested Moscow in February that the investigation be handed over to them entirely, but has not, as yet, received an answer, RFE/RL’s Armenian service reported.