The Armenian Parliament, struggling for control over renegade militia groups, declared a state of emergency and outlawed the largest armed group in the republic Wednesday after an outbreak of shooting that left a lawmaker and five other people dead.
The Parliament voted 170 to 0 to ban the group known as the Armenian National Army and ordered its members to turn in their weapons and vacate the building they have occupied illegally as their headquarters. The lawmakers ordered a 10 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew and barred demonstrations.
Thousands of men have joined rebellious armed groups formed to defend Armenia in a bloody feud with the neighboring republic of Azerbaijan. Armenia’s new president, Levon Ter-Petrosian, has assured Moscow that he can bring the renegade groups under the control of Parliament and stop their raids on government arms depots, as well as their border clashes with Azerbaijanis.
Members of some of these groups already have pledged their loyalty to the republic’s government, but officers of the so-called Armenian National Army have sworn that they will not lay down their weapons. According to reports Wednesday night from Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, they rejected the Parliament’s demands and called for negotiations.
Talks reportedly are under way. If they fail, it is feared that an armed showdown will erupt between the Armenia National Army militia and troops of the Armenian Interior Ministry and the KGB, the two groups ordered to enforce the parliamentary ban.
Shortly after midnight, a duty officer at the Interior Ministry said it was quiet in Yerevan but that none of the Armenian National Army militants had obeyed the order to disarm.
The latest round of violence in Armenia began Wednesday morning, when the Armenian National Army clashed with militiamen of the Armenian National Movement, which supports the Ter-Petrosian government, at a Yerevan service station. One person was killed. Three others were killed later in another clash, according to the Soviet government newspaper Izvestia.
Viktor Aivazyan, a member of the Armenian Parliament, and Gervandik Mikaelian, an Armenian National Movement activist, then went to Armenian National Army headquarters as part of a peace delegation, and both were shot to death, the news agency Tass reported.
Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev issued a special decree in July demanding that the armed groups put down their weapons within 15 days, then extended the deadline into September.
Last week, the Armenian Parliament approved a declaration of independence asserting the republic’s right to its own army, foreign policy and currency, and it began the transition to full independence from the Soviet Union.
The Soviet government has not publicly objected to the declaration, and people in Yerevan said Wednesday that there was no sign that Moscow was sending troops to disarm the militia groups.
The groups are an outgrowth of an old dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, an autonomous region in Azerbaijan populated mainly by Armenians. The Armenian Parliament has taken the position that the region is Armenian.