Special Report from Yerevan: Tension Increasing

From our Georgia Today journalist in Yerevan: Karen Tovmasyan.

The situation in Armenia is becoming tenser and more troubling by the hour as a large number of police become concentrated in the center of Yerevan. The Chief of Police of Armenia, Vladimir Gasparian, has announced that they won't let the city be blocked, while Deputy Chief of Police of Yerevan Vladimir Osipian has called on the demonstrators to move back from Mashtots Avenue, threating to use force to depress the demonstration. Rumors are circulating about plans to place a number of pro-government provocateurs among the lines of demonstrators. What’s more, police say they have arrested Tigran Rostamyan, a 24 year-old  who they say had a weapon and a second person was taken to the police station from the Square of France, though the police have yet to reveal the reason for his detention.

Yesterday’s request by the President of Armenia, Serzh Sargsian,  to conduct an audit of the Electricity Networks of Armenia (ENA) was not enough to satisfy the demonstrators, who for the fourth day blocked the main administrative avenue of Yerevan through a non-stop demonstration.

The lines between the demonstrators and police have narrowed, with the neutral zone, formed three days ago, no longer in existence. Now the only barricade is formed by a few dozen recycle bins which separate the lines of demonstrators and police. The demonstrators expect a new attack from the police and, using social networks, have called for more people to join them on location. The number of demonstrators in the Square at the time of writing has noticebly increased in number compared to what it was just 24 hours previously.

On June 23 police forces brutally attacked protestors in an attempt to break up the demonstration. 250 people including journalists were detained at police stations and later released, while 76 people were hospitalized and 15 people are in recovery. June 23 only succeeded in increasing the number of people wishing to join the peaceful demonstration, swelling the crowds by the thousands and raising the power of their voice as they demand for the plans to hike the price of electricity to be annulled.

The lines of demonstrators are now attempting to take over another key avenue of Yerevan, Mashtots Avenue, which will paralyze most of that part of the city center. The demonstrators made two attempts to close Mashtots Avenue during the day yesterday, but the police were able to push them back in both cases.

The demonstrators are firm in their position to keep Baghramian Avenue closed until their demands are satisfied. Baghramian Avenue has become a city in the city where people share food, drinks and information, have parties and celebrate their birthdays with the demonstrators. Almost every hour they sing patriotic songs and dance to folk music. From time to time they chant their slogans: "Victory Will Be Ours!" "Armenia!", We are the Lords of Our Country!", "Free, Independent Armenia",  "Struggle, Struggle to the End!", "No to the Plunder!".

"Baghramian Avenue has a key strategic importance for the city and administration and keeping it blocked is a strategic means to forcing the government to satisfy our demands," one of the organizers of #Electric Yerevan said.

The demonstrators continue to claim that the protests in Yerevan are not in line with the Maidan in Ukraine and the slogan "Mashtots Avenue is a Street not a Square (Maidan)!" has become more often heard.

Many people participating in the demonstration repeat the idea that this issue has no connection with Russia, and it was only raised because of the inadequate behavour of the Armenian government.

Meanwhile Russian authorities yesterday announced that they are giving up Valeri Permyakov, a soldier from the Russian military base suspected of the assasination of an Armenian family in Gyumri in February this year, to Armenian jurisdiction. Since February the Russian side had been rejecting any possibility of handing him over to the Armenian side. It is hot news on Facebook, where users claim that it was done now to gain the sympathy of the demonstrators and reduce the chance of the case being used to turn the demonstrations into an anti-Russian line.

The geography of the demonstrations  has also increased and large protests are already taking place in the second largest city of Armenia, Gyumri. Demonstrations taking place in Kapan, the center of the southern region of Armenia, can be regarded as a sensation as the governor in this distanced region, Mr. Surik Khachatryan, well-known for his nickname "Liska," is also known for his non-tolerant behaviour against demonstrations, having appeared in a number of scandals while depressing small demonstrations in the region.

Demonstrations are also happening in many communities of the Armenian diaspora with Armenians living in Tbilisi, Dortmund, Prague, and Glendale are organising solidarity marches in support of #ElectricYerevan. 

27 June 2015 12:06