Armenian Government Disarms Scores of Militiamen : Sovet Union: It acted after a Parliament member was killed. The nationalist leaders had persuaded Gorbachev to let them handle the vigilantes.
Armenia’s fledgling nationalist government, winning a crucial battle to impose its authority, surrounded a private militia’s headquarters Thursday and disarmed scores of its members in an attempt to halt deadly gun battles in Yerevan, the capital.
It was the first true test for the pro-independence government of Levon Ter-Petrosyan, who earlier this month persuaded Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev to allow Armenian officials and police, rather than representatives of the Moscow-based central government, to bring the bands of nationalist vigilantes and irregulars in the Transcaucasus republic under control.
Meanwhile, in Moscow, Gorbachev convened a meeting of two top executive advisory bodies--the Presidential Council and the Federation Council--to consider proposed economic and legal reforms that will introduce a market-style economy and a new Treaty of Union granting greater freedom of action to the leaders of individual Soviet republics such as Armenia.
In remarks broadcast on state-run television news, Gorbachev voiced great concern that the widespread disgruntlement in Soviet society might be exploited by foes of his campaign for perestroika, or social and economic reconstruction, and warned of the possibility of “unmanageable anarchy” if laws and the legal process are ignored.
“The accumulating dissatisfaction of people is being used by various oppositional and even openly anti- perestroika forces,” Gorbachev told the meeting, held in one of the halls of the Kremlin. “We cannot permit, comrades, for the revolutionary changes to break out of the framework of legality and develop in a way other than reforms. We have all good grounds to call perestroika a revolution. But it is a peaceful revolution . . . .”
In Armenia, a member of the Armenian Parliament had been shot to death Wednesday as he approached the Yerevan headquarters of the so-called Armenian National Army, a renegade militia. Afterward, the Armenian Parliament, in a unanimous vote, banned the paramilitary group and ordered it to disarm by Wednesday night or face criminal charges.
As the deadline approached, the Armenian National Army’s three buildings in Yerevan were ringed by soldiers and tanks and, about 1:30 a.m., 500 soldiers and police officers moved in, meeting no resistance, Soviet media reported. As many as 250 militants reportedly gave up their weapons, although Ter-Petrosyan said about 50 others had slipped away before the headquarters was surrounded. More than half a ton of ammunition and explosives was confiscated.
It was a triumph for the young Yerevan government, which had declared the republic’s independence last week, because Armenian officials, not their counterparts from the central government, had brought the renegade militia under control.
“Yesterday was the quietest day in the past six months in this republic,” Ter-Petrosyan, who was elected Armenia’s president Aug. 4, told Parliament. “The people have seen that there is real power in the republic and that it works.”
Later, two leaders of the Armenian National Army, Razmik Vasilyan and Vardan Vardanyan, announced on television that the group’s military council had voted to disband the organization, and they urged members to obey the decisions of the Parliament headed by Ter-Petrosyan.
Units of the group were handing in their weapons voluntarily in the Ashtarak, Spitak and Kirovakan regions, the Interfax news agency reported.
The genesis of armed groups such as the Armenian National Army was the violent feud between Armenia and the neighboring Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, which began as a territorial dispute in spring, 1988, over which republic should rule the Nagorno-Karabakh district.
The bands were originally created as self-protection forces to guard Armenian border settlements and the mountainous republic’s frontiers, but some have settled scores with other Armenians, attacked Soviet soldiers and policemen or committed crimes.
On Wednesday, Armenian National Army fighters had attacked a gas station, Yerevan residents reported. As he arrived at the group’s headquarters to investigate, lawmaker Viktor Aivazyan was shot to death along with a member of the Armenian National Movement’s militia, which had previously recognized the authority of Ter-Petrosyan’s government. Four other people were reported slain in other clashes.
On the economic front, Gorbachev and the president of the country’s largest republic, Russia’s Boris N. Yeltsin, met in Moscow on Wednesday to see if they could reach accord on a strategy to stabilize the reeling Soviet economy and transform it into more of a market-style system. They evidently gave their blessing to the program being worked out by a group of economists they had agreed to jointly sponsor earlier this month.
That group’s blueprint, press reports said, calls for a vast decentralization of authority to the benefit of the republics, as well as the rapid “privatization” of the economy. A rival and more conservative program exists, prepared under the aegis of Prime Minister Nikolai I. Ryzhkov, but it would have little chance of imposing itself in the face of an economic rescue plan that had the backing of the Soviet and Russian presidents.
In remarks Thursday to the governmental advisory bodies, which were to resume their meeting today, Gorbachev started off speaking the language of Yeltsin--he referred to the ongoing creation of a union of “sovereign states” to succeed the top-heavy Soviet Union of the past--but also advocated common action by the central government and the often-rebellious or independence-minded Soviet republics.