The governor of Armenia’s southeastern Vayots Dzor province, Trdat Sargsian, announced his resignation early on Tuesday amid an investigation into his possible involvement in a violent dispute that left one man critically injured.
An aide to Sargsian was arrested over the weekend on charges of assaulting an Armenian army officer during the incident that occurred in the provincial capital Yeghegnadzor. Lieutenant-Colonel Ara Mkhitarian suffered severe injuries to his head and remains in a coma.
Mkhitarian’s relatives and friends say that he and other officers were attacked by a larger group of men that may have included Sargsian, a claim denied by the governor. Nevertheless, the latter faced on Monday growing calls to step down, with critics, among them supporters of the Armenian government, saying that he is responsible for the violence even if he was not directly involved in it.
In a statement posted on Facebook overnight, Sargsian insisted that he was at home during the incident. “I have presented the investigating body with evidence of this fact,” he wrote. “I am confident that there will be an objective investigation and the guilty will be punished.”
Still, Sargsian said he has decided to resign because he sees the need for “political ethics and political responsibility in the New Armenia.” He added that his resignation will take effect immediately after the Armenian military completes large-scale war games on October 5.
“Everyone who places themselves above the law must be held accountable,” a human rights lawyer, Nina Karapetiants, said in this regard. “Nobody must be able to dodge responsibility.”
Sargsian, 30, is a member of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s Civil Contract party. Pashinian and his close associates have not publicly commented on the Yeghegnadzor incident.