Injured Armenia Candidate Says Foreign Secret Service Behind Hit
YEREVAN — Armenian presidential candidate Paruyr Hairikian, who was shot and injured in the shoulder on January 31, says he suspects a secret service of a “former state” of being behind the attack.
Hairikian, who is receiving treatment in a Yerevan hospital, said in an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that the service he referred to — without naming it — had chased him “for many years.”
“As for suspicions, I will tell you frankly that I suspect the secret service of a foreign state that chased me for many years,” he said. “Not of that state, Russia, but of the former one.”
Hairikian did not elaborate on his remark.
During the Soviet era, he spent a total of 11 years in Soviet prison camps and a further three in internal exile for his membership in a clandestine political organization and for authoring “samizdat.”
Hairikian also said he might ask for a constitutionally allowed two-week postponement of the February 18 vote.
Armenia’s constitution requires a two-week delay in the vote if a candidate is unable to participate because of circumstances beyond his or her control. If the issue causing the delay cannot be resolved, there could be a further 40-day postponement.
The 63-year-old politician was shot outside his house in Yerevan late on January 31. Police are still searching for the unidentified gunman.
Hairikian, who is 63, is one of eight candidates in the election, which incumbent Serzh Sarkisian is expected to win.
Hairikian, who heads the Union of National Self-Determination Party, was not seen as a strong challenger.
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian condemned the attack as a blow against the government.
Sarkisian was one of several Armenian political leaders to visit Hairikian in hospital.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland condemned the attack.
Controversy and violence are no stranger to presidential elections in Armenia.
In 2008, 10 people were killed in clashes between police and protesters after Sarkisian was declared the winner.
This year’s election comes as Armenia’s economy struggles to recover from the recent global financial crisis.
Armenia also remains hobbled by a trade blockade imposed by neighboring Turkey and Azerbaijan since the 1990s war with Azerbaijan over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Copyright (c) 2013. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.