Saturday, 22 September

The weapon used to kill Tigran Naghdalyan

Late in the evening of March 5, 2003 the Haylur news program announced that the murder of Tigran Naghdalyan had been solved. Among the images in the broadcast was a TT-model pistol with following letters and numbers on it: TT 265 50g. According to the statement distributed by the Prosecutor General’s Office, this was the pistol used to kill Naghdalyan.

In the beginning, law-enforcement worked to identify the gun used in Tigran Naghdalyan’s assassination. There was no information regarding the use of this gun -- no record of any crime being committed with the weapon. This was the first time it had been used to shoot someone in Armenia. At any rate, it didn’t appear in the law enforcement database.

We attempted to find out how many crimes are committed in Armenia with TT-model pistols in general. The police have no such information. Inspector Matinyan, a senior police inspector on special assignments, informed us that they don’t keep such records and they can’t say what percentage of crimes committed with firearm use TT-model pistols. Why not remains unclear. Instead we received this information: there were 828 crimes committed with firearms from 1993 to 2002.

In 1930, Tokarev devised a pistol with a caliber of 7.62mm based on the Mauser rifle, which had a 7.63mm bullet --the most powerful bullet at the time. This pistol has been manufactured since 1931. It is possible to fire TT 7.62mm bullets from the Mauser. In the Army it was called “the 7.62mm TT pistol”. TT stands for Tula Tokarev. The Soviet Union produced 1,700,000 TT pistols, and exported them to a number of countries. The pistol used to be a part of the weaponry of the armies of 30 countries in Europe and Asia. Yugoslavia, Hungary, Poland, China and North Korea had licenses to manufacture it. Even today China and Poland produce and export the pistol. In 1951 when the 9mm Makarov pistol was introduced into the Soviet army, the TT pistol was taken out of the armory. However, it was still used in some units of the Soviet army, and was left behind in CIS countries after the end of the Soviet Union. The TT pistol is still widely used in the criminal world because it is cheap and powerful. 30-35% of the registered crimes committed in CIS countries involve the TT pistol.

There’s a black market for weapons in Armenia like anywhere else. We found out that a TT pistol costs $500. They are smuggled in from abroad. A great number of TT pistols have been in people’s hands since the Karabakh war.

The serial number of the weapon used for Tigran Naghdalyan’s assassination was shown on TV on March 5th. According to information put out by the Prosecutor General’s Office, the gun was handed over to John Harutiunyan and Felix Arustanyan, who committed the murder, by Gagik Shahbazyan. There were also a Makarov pistol and eight bullets with the TT pistol. How did Shahbazyan get the TT pistol? We don’t yet know the results of the investigation. We don’t know what Shahbazyan told the investigators. On the famous videotape shown on TV, “Aper” - Hovhannes Harutiunyan - said that he had given the gun to Shahbazyan. And when the investigator asked him where he got the gun, he said - from outside.

The issue of the ownership of the pistol was important for the investigation. Who did the gun belong to? The killers didn’t have weapons, they were given the weapon before the assassination. It is also odd that the killers went to work without checking the gun. That’s not what ordinary killers do.

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