After the publication of the short video about the mystery of prominent Armenian quantum physicist Vilik Harutyunyan’s death, about which I addressed three questions to Serzh Sargsyan, News.am redirected the questions to Karine Harutyunyan, the late scientist’s daughter. She was quoted as saying that the circumstances of her father’s death as presented in the video are false.
Karine Harutyunyan’s refutation of the statements made in the video implies that the late Vartkes Barsam and I are being somewhat less than honest. But I do not wish to strike back with an equivalent statement.
Having known Vilik Harutyunyan personally, I have deep respect both for him and his family. In fact, my only concern before making Vartkes Barsam’s revelations public was the safety of the Harutyunyans. Thus, any news of such refutations won’t bother me as much as news about any member of Vilik Harutyunyan’s family getting into trouble.
I believe that Karine Harutyunyan was, unfortunately, exposed to some pressure. I do not discount that the source of that pressure was simply self-censorship. After all she works for the Armenian Government, a detail that News.am chose to omit when introducing her. But Why? To make her sound more independent? Since when do news agencies introduce people only by their university degrees? And it is especially odd, when the person in question is none other than the current deputy Minister of Education and Science.
News.am has also quoted Karine Harutyunyan asking the general public to refrain from discussing her family’s grief. But since Vilik Harutyunyan was a prominent public figure, the consequences of his death have spread far beyond his small circle of family and friends. Thus, the general public needs to understand what happened to him and why.
Given the many questions the video generated among a wide range of viewers, I would like to provide a few clarifications with regard to the claims that were made in it. To a lot of people this video was like a equation with two unknowns: Vartkes Barsam and Vilik Harutyunyan. Therefore, I will just say a few words about the two public figures dedicated to the development of Armenia.
Vartkes Barsam is an American-Armenian benefactor who was among the first Diaspora Armenians to extend their helping hand after the 1988 Spitak Earthquake. He helped found the American University of Armenia (AUA) in Yerevan in 1991 and donated his HyBusiness Hotel in Yerevan to the university in 2005. He launched numerous charitable initiatives in Armenia and Artsakh, which included providing financial support to the two Armenian governments at critical times, as well as military equipment and walkie-talkies to the Armenian forces during the war. Vartkes Barsam was the recipient of many awards, including the title of honorary citizen of Stepanavan, Armenia, and the reputable Ellis Island Medal of Honor Award in 2006.
At the time of establishing the AUA, Vartkes Barsam met Vilik Harutyunyan, Armenia’s first Minister of Education and Science, and their friendship flourished from then on. Vilik Harutyunyan was also the founder and the Director General of the newly established Laserayin Teknika R&D company (1988). Despite the harsh economic crisis in Armenia of the early 1990s, Vilik Harutyunyan had succeeded in ensuring the company’s steady development, continuing to employ over a thousand specialists and earning it a reputation as one of the most advanced research and development centers in the world.
I got to know Vilik Harutyunyan thanks to Vartkes Barsam, who, taking advantage of my frequent flights to Armenia, would often ask me to deliver a package or two to Harutyunyan. Since Vartkes was reluctant to go into details about the content of the packages, he only told me that they contained components of some type that Vilik Harutyunyan needed for Laserayin Teknika.
Of all the departments of Laserayin Teknika, I would like to single out the top-secret facility for developing and manufacturing advanced military equipment. Vilik Harutyunyan was so careful about this facility that he would never speak about it to anyone, including his family members. He had a strict principle about the military department: you know whatever you need to know, and you must not know whatever you are not supposed to. I learned quickly not to ask Vilik questions, but rather to listen to what he had to say.
Running a top-secret military facility meant close cooperation with the National Security agencies and Armenia’s Defense Ministry. This also implied long-term and active interaction with Serzh Sargsyan from 1993 to 2000, until August 19, the day Vilik Harutyunyan was found dead in his office at Laserayin Teknika.
As a reminder, Serzh Sargsyan was the Minister of Defense of the Republic of Armenia in 1993-1995; the Head of the Republic of Armenia State Security Department and, later, the Minister of National Security in 1995-1996; the Republic of Armenia the Minister of Interior and National Security in 1996-1999; the Republic of Armenia Minister of National Security in 1999; the Chief of Staff of the Republic of Armenia President in 1999-2000; the Secretary of the Republic of Armenia National Security Council led by the President in 1999-2007; and, again, the Republic of Armenia Minister of Defense in 2000-2007.
As far as I remember, Vilik Harutyunyan, in contrast to Karine Harutyunyan’s claim as quoted by News.am, never revered Serzh Sargsyan. Moreover, there was a certain amount of tension between them, which increased after Serzh Sargsyan revealed his plans to sell Laserayin Teknika to Pyrkal, the main producer of ammunition and explosives in Greece.
Vilik Harutyunyan was against selling one of the most strategically important facilities of Armenia to a foreign country. As a citizen dedicated to the development of his country, Vilik Harutyunyan had reasons to be concerned. As I later found out, the packages I was delivering were, in fact, intended for a groundbreaking military innovation – a special type of laser weapon that not only had some sort of disorienting psychological effect on enemy troops, but also the physical effect of blinding them. This laser weapon was put to use for the defense of Artsakh and had a considerable contribution to the successful outcome of several battles. The Armenian laser weapon soon generated demand abroad. The power of Vilik Harutyunyan’s scientific legacy is obvious in a U.S. classified intelligence report. On May 13, 2003, The Washington Times writes:
A classified report by the Army’s National Ground Intelligence Center produced in 1999 warned that Serbia’s armed forces might resort to laser warfare against U.S. pilots during the air war over Kosovo. […] The report noted that lasers weapons or lasers with weapons capabilities can be purchased from Russia, China and Armenia. (See http://www.washingtontimes.com/national/20030513-47005.htm/ or http://forums.gunbroker.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=60769)
Vilik Harutyunyan could see the great potential of developing and expanding his brainchild especially in the field of laser medicine, optics, crystal growth and high technology. He was looking tirelessly for new opportunities of cooperation. He was able to get Germany, Switzerland, Iran and China interested in cooperating with Laserayin Teknika. But Serzh Sargsyan hindered the development of these ties.
Although Harutyunyuan’s resolution not to yield the Armenian company to a foreign country was as unshakeable as Sargsyan’s resolution to sell it, the latter did eventually sell Laserayin Teknika to the Greek Pyrkal, and, according to well-informed Vartkes Barsam, was generously rewarded with millions of dollars in bribes.
During his announcement about running for the 2nd term, on December 25, 2012, Serzh Sargsyan exclaimed: “This is Armenia and that is it!”, I recalled the actual author of those words, Artsakh war hero Leonid Azgaldyan. I wonder how this physicist, who worked at Laserayin Teknika, before sacrificing his life for the defense of his homeland, would react upon that controversial sales transaction.
This is how the official website of the Ministry of Education and Science describes the deal:
During the years of crisis in the republic, thanks to his unmatched perseverance and stern belief in the future, Vilik Hartutyunyan succeeded in maintaining the core of the Institute, not losing the achievements made throughout many years, and upholding his partners’ belief in the organization. It served as a basis for Laserayin Teknika R&D to be re-established in 1999 as an Armenian-Greek joint venture called LT-Pyrkal with the direct initiative and support of Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, then Armenia’s Defense Minister. (See http://www.edu.am/index.php?id=4250&topMenu=-1&menu1=205&menu2=205&arch=0)
The company that used to employ over 1,000 specialists, today employs only 250, according to the official website of the new company, LT-Pyrkal.
Serzh Sargsyan had launched what I would call a pressure campaign against Vilik Harutyunyan. And this is the period, to which Karine Harutyunyan refers as her father “having health issues”. As the pressure grew more intense, the perfectly healthy physicist started having anxiety attacks. Repeated spasms soon made him see a doctor, who suggested that he put nitroglycerine under his tongue whenever he got nervous. These spasms had become so frequent that he had to regularly carry nitroglycerine with him to calm himself.
As a result of my investigation into the circumstances of his death, I was able to reconstruct, to a certain extent, the events of that tragic day. At 10:30 am, on August 19, 2000, Saturday, Vilik Harutyunyan headed to his office at LT-Pyrkal. Without any prior notification, Serzh Sargsyan, accompanied by three people, one of whom was the Greek deputy Director of the company, paid a surprise visit to Vilik Harutyunyan in his office. According to those unexpected visitors, half an hour into the meeting, while they were still in discussion, Vilik Harutyunyan went pale. He was asked whether he felt bad, to which he answered ‘yes’. Instead of taking nitroglycerine, which he had in his pocket, he asked for Validol. Then he walked toward the sofa, sat on it and lost consciousness. Serzh Sargsyan left, accompanied by one person. A few minutes later the remaining guests left. Half an hour after the last guest left, Vilik Harutyunyan was found dead in his office.
There is a strange detail in the last part of this version of events that questions the veracity of the description of the events in the office. The inconsistency lies in Vilik Harutyunyan’s alleged request for Validol. If he regularly had nitroglycerine in his pocket, why would he ask for Validol, even though it has a similar effect of calming a spasm and preventing a heart attack?
To this day it is unclear as to what exactly happened in his office; what was being discussed; and what particularly was being spoken about at the moment when Vilik Harutyunyan suddenly felt sick.
Karine Harutyunyan claims that the cause of her father’s death was a heart attack. Although News.am presents this information as evidence to prove my and Vartkes Barsam’s claims wrong, I would like to emphasize that her statement is not in contradiction with the one made in the video at all. One does not have to be a KGB agent to know that there is such a thing as induced heart attack. For instance, an unclassified 1964 CIA report on KGB methods, “Soviet Use of Assassination And Kidnapping”, provides details about a “gun which fires vaporized poison which killed the target almost instantly upon being inhaled”. Most importantly, such guns leave no wound or other evidence of the cause of death: “Allegedly, no foreign matter can be discovered in the body or on the clothes of the victim, no matter how thorough an autopsy or examination.”
Based on well-known Soviet cardiologist Vinogradov’s research, the KGB was later able to develop a more advanced method, which could induce a heart attack without any pharmacological interference. (More details at http://sovetunion.ru/iskusstvo/infarkt-po-zakazu). All of these methods, undoubtedly, amount to murder.
Serzh Sargsyan, who had access to such methods by virtue of having been the head of the Armenian successor of the Soviet KGB for many years, was one of the key eyewitnesses to Vilik Harutyunyan’s death. And that is why I addressed my questions to Serzh Sargsyan personally, rather than to Karine Harutyunyan, who was in Switzerland with her husband and children at the time of her father’s death – thousands of miles away from Vilik Harutyunyan’s office in Yerevan.
During my investigation I also found out that the family was offered to have Vilik Harutyunyan buried in Yerevan’s Pantheon, where the luminaries of the Armenian people rest. However, unlike, for instance, the family of former Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan (1951-2007), another victim of a heart attack, the Harutyunyans refused the government’s seductive offer and had him buried in a regular graveyard.
After Vilik Harutyunyan’s death, almost all the people from Vilik Harutyunyan’s small circle of friends, including Vartkes Barsam, believed that he was methodically and steadily led to his death, because the only way to weaken the institute and sway him was to get rid of him.
In April of 2006, a few months before succumbing to cancer, 80-year-old Vartkes Barsam, whom I believed to be a man of action who did not like to gossip, decided to confide his troublesome experiences in Armenia to me, rather than carry those secrets to his grave. Vilik Harutynyan’s story was one of them.
Today, it is long overdue to get more specific answers as to how exactly Vilik Harutyunyan died. Therefore, I would like to repeat my three questions to Serzh Sargsyan: Why did you sell Laserayin Teknika to the Greeks? Why was Vilik Harutyunyan against selling the Institute? What happened to Vilik Harutyunyan in his office at LT-Pyrkal, on August 19, 2000.
I hope that next time News.am, or any other news agency for that matter, will direct my questions to the designated addressee, Serzh Sargsyan, rather than bother the respectable Harutyunyans, who are still grieving over their loss.
Ara K. Manoogian is a human rights activist representing the Shahan Natalie Family Foundation in Artsakh and Armenia; a Fellow of the Washington-based Policy Forum Armenia (PFA); creator of www.thetruthmustbetold.com and author of the white paper “To Donate Or Not to Donate”, an in-depth study on the activities of the “Hayastan” All-Armenian Fund