Russia Stirring Trouble as Yerevan Protest Doubles in Size

A special report from Georgia Today's on-the-scene Armenian correspondent, Karen Tovmasyan.

More than 10,000 people, mostly youths, again filled the streets of Yerevan yesterday demanding that the government annul the decision to increase the prices of electricity. For the  third day now Yerevan's central streets remain paralyzed due to the six-day long non-stop demonstrations. The number of demonstrators increased following attempts by police to disperse the peaceful sit-down protest early in the morning of June 23.

The embassies of the UK and USA released statements expressing their concern at the June 23 police reaction to the protests in Yerevan.

“We are concerned about reports of excessive use of force by police to disperse the crowd on the morning of June 23 as well as several reports of abuse of detainees while in police custody,” the US Embassy said in an official statement. “In addition, we are troubled by reports that journalists and their equipment were specifically targeted during the operation.”

The British embassy has also expressed concern “…about reports on the use of force against journalists and the deliberate destruction or confiscation of their equipment; the widespread reports of men in plainclothes acting together with the police; and reports of excessive use of force against people who were not resisting arrest."

From 19 to 22 June the demonstrations were restricted to Yerevan's central Freedom square, but after dissatisfaction at the government's reaction, on June 22 demonstrators move to occupy more central territory from the building of the Constitutional Court to the Square of France, closing Baghramian Ave. and so blocking a number of central streets.

The demonstrators categorically reject any suggestion to negotiate with the government, stating that their demand is to annul the June 17 decision of Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC)  to increase the electricity price by 16%, and state that they have no desire to find a compromise to this demand.

The demonstration is very active: people are singing and dancing in the street, from time to time chanting "No to Plunder" "Free, Independent, Armenia" and "The victory will be ours." Anti-government slogans are also gaining in popularity.

Armenia's ruling Republican party's vice-president Armen Ashotian was yesterday vituperated  by the demonstrators while appearing on location at the manifestation venue and trying to negotiate with the representatives of the " No to Plunder" civic initiative who organized the protests after the unsuccessful morning attempt to disperse the demonstration.

No further clashes occurred with demonstrators, despite some news sources claiming so.  In fact, police and demonstrators have come to a compromise and organized a neutral zone between police and demonstrators which can be filled only by journalists.

Demonstrations are also being held in other major cities Gyumri, Vanadzor, Abovyan, and Charentsavan.

Solidarity manifestations have also been held by Armenian Diaspora.

The recent demonstrations in Armenia have brought international attention, while Russia's main information TV Channel, Russia 24, makes worrying reports about the Armenian demonstrations which mislead audiences and broadcast false information about the protests. It has been claimed (on Russia 24) that the demonstrations aim to change the country's foreign political line in favour of the West, as happened in Ukraine, while the organizers reject this theory, stating that the demonstrations have no foreign political agenda.

"We will not be turning the demonstrations into a Maidan," one of the representatives of the 'No to Plunder' initiative Vaghinak Shushanian said.

The participants of the demonstrations also deny they are against Russia, stating that this is the Armenian government’s decision to make, but they don't hide their disappointment at how the Russian channels have been covering the Yerevan demonstrations. Some demonstrators attempted to interrupt a Russian "Lifenews" TV channel reporter as he mislead the public while speaking about the demonstrations.

The Russian Ambassador to Armenia, Volinkin, also spoke out about the recent demonstrations in Armenia, stating: "This situation must be regulated in a purely legal manner. There can be no other variants. The situation must be regulated around the table of negotiation, as has many times been suggested by Armenia's President, Serzh Sargsyan." 

25 June 2015 08:54