Special Report: Police Attack Peaceful Energy Protesters in Armenia

UPDATED: 3PM, 23/06/2015

A four-day long peaceful protest was brutally dispersed by police forces in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, early this morning, June 23.

At 5:30 am today the police started a brutal attack on some 5000 protesters using water cannons and batons. The police then chased the protesters for several kilometres. Journalists covering the action were also attacked by the police forces, their equipment was damaged and some were detained.

Hakob Karapetyan, an iLur.am news outlet reporter, was a victim of police brutality whose camera was taken away  and damaged. "I was taking pictures as the police worked to disperse the demonstrators. After catching them [the demonstrators], they started to catch journalists and reporters who had covered it. I tried to run to Northern Avenue but soon I was also caught and taken to Freedom Square. I showed my press badge and kept repeating that I was a reporter, but this didn’t prevent them from taking my camera and damaging the memory card," Karapetyan told Georgia Today.

Another photo-journalist, Gevorg Khazaryan, was attacked by police while trying to help a girl as she ran from the water cannons. "I was forcibly taken to a police car while undertaking my professional duties. They took my camera, which still hasn’t been returned, and broke my glasses.”

The protests in Yerevan started on June 19 in response to a decision made by the Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC) to satisfy the application of Electricity Networks of Armenia (ENA), owned by Russian energy giant RAO UES, to raise the rates of the electricity by 16% on June 17.

The peaceful protest against the hike in electricity rates involved a non-stop sit-down strike in the central Freedom Square in Yerevan, with protesters giving an ultimatum to the authorities to annul the decision of PSRC by June 22.

On 22 June protesters then moved to the Presidential Palace but were blocked by police forces in the Middle of Bagramyan Avenue and the Square of France, where the protesters continued their sit-down manifestation so blocking the avenue leading to the Presidential Palace.

Deputy Chief the Yerevan Police, Valeri Osipyan, informed protestors that the Presidential Administration was ready to meet a delegation of protestors consisting of five persons, but the protestors rejected this offer, stating that the President could simply ensure that the price raise is annulled by the PSRC.

After that rejection, representatives of the Presidential Administration told protesters that the manifestation was not sanctioned by the municipal authorities of Yerevan, and that the police may forcibly end the protest if the demonstrators failed to unblock the Avenue. Despite the warning, protesters decided to peacefully continue their action, singing patriotic songs and chanting anti-government slogans which lead to the attack by police.

Police have now closed some central streets in Yerevan in order to prevent future protests in the city. 250 people including journalists are still being held at police stations while a further 76 people were hospitalized. 15 people are currently recovering from grave injuries.

The civic group "No to Plunder," the organizer of the recent protest against the raise in electricity rates, has called for another demonstration today at 6 p.m.

Check out the action at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qb9Sn5RM1ZE  (video of Radio Free Europe/Radio Libery Armenian Service)

Karen Tovmasyan, Georgia Today’s Armenian correspondent will be providing up-to-date news from Yerevan throughout the week.


23 June 2015 18:01