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Yerevan’s Siege of Leningrad monument desecrated in ‘challenge’ to Zakharova

1 February 2024
The monument to the children of the Siege of Leningrad in Yerevan. Screenshot from video

A man has been detained after desecrating a memorial to the Siege of Leningrad in Yerevan. He claimed to be challenging whether the siege had taken place, in response to Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson demanding evidence for ethnic cleansing having taken place in Nagorno-Karabakh. 

On Thursday, Armenia’s Investigative Committee told aysor.am that criminal charges were brought against the man on charges of public hate speech, as well as public distribution of material intended to incite hate. If found guilty, he faces punishment of up to four years in prison. 

The criminal proceedings were launched on Tuesday, a day after a video of the incident was first circulated by Armenian media. According to news.am, the video was published by Samvel Shirinyan on Facebook.

In the video, a person walks towards a monument in Yerevan dedicated to children in the Siege of Leningrad, while criticising the comments of Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova. 

‘Maria Zakharova said in the last days that there is no documentation [to prove] that ethnic cleansing took place in Artsakh [Nagorno-Karabakh]’, he says. ‘There’s no documentation, that’s interesting. Well, is there documentation to prove that there was a siege in Leningrad? And we, in Armenia, built a monument to those fascists, and we also mourn. There’s no documentation. There’s no documentation.’

In mid-January, Maria Zakharova accused Armenia of ‘falsifying facts’ about the actions of Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh and demanded evidence to support Armenia’s claims that ethnic cleansing took place in Nagorno-Karabakh. 

In the video, the man knocks over wreaths placed by the Russian Ambassador and others on the 80th anniversary of the end of the Siege of Leningrad. 

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According to Sputnik Armenia, the man also tore and trampled decorative ribbons in the colours of the Russian flag.

On Tuesday, the head of the Russian House in Yerevan appealed to Armenia’s General Prosecutor to investigate the citizen’s actions. A criminal case was launched in Russia regarding the incident on the same day. 

Russia’s Foreign Ministry also released Zakharova’s statement condemning the incident on Tuesday.  

‘Such antics are facilitated by a public campaign launched in the republic to denigrate Russia and its role in the South Caucasus,’ said the statement. 

Following the incident, a group laid new wreaths at the memorial. On Wednesday, a memorial service was held near the monument by clergy of the Armenian and Russian Churches.