​Armenia protesters demand more time to consider next move after govt concessions

Protesters in the streets of Yerevan want “more time” to decide on further actions after the government agreed to shoulder the costs and compensate for electricity price hikes until a full audit of Electric Networks of Armenia is conducted.

The organizers of the ‘No to Robbery!’ movement in Armenia have tried to convince authorities on Saturday evening that they need more time, until at least 2:00pm GMT Sunday, to decide on their next move and present their decision.

Meanwhile the deputy chief of Yerevan Police, Colonel Valery Osipyan, reminded activists that their gathering was technically illegal, but authorities were not planning to use force to disperse crowds as long as they remain peaceful.

“The rally is peaceful, but illegal,” Osipyan told reporters. “We are trying to convince the demonstrators to follow the law.”

On Saturday Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan voiced a proposal, according to which the government would compensate all costs related to the price hikes until an audit of the Electric Networks of Armenia company, which protesters accuse of corruption, is complete. The president offered to employ the best international practices and invite respected consulting and audit companies to conduct an inspection and rule on the price hike.

The activists however have held off on accepting the offer, after previously rejecting direct talks with the president on two occasions. People are committed to staying in the streets until a definitive decision the issue is reached, representative of the movement Vaginak Shushanyan said, according to RIA. The government is offering to resolve the issue by spending state funds, which also “belong to the people,” he told the crowd.

Protesters, who blocked off the Marshal Baghramyan Avenue with garbage cans, continue spending nights in the central Yerevan streets and demanding the cancellation of a 16.7 percent electricity price hike that is due to take effect on August 1. "I have the strength to protest for two more months," Shushanyan told Novosti-Armenia news agency. Alongside the freezing and renegotiation of electricity tariffs, protesters are demanding that the use of force by police officers earlier this week be investigated.

On Tuesday, after several attempts by the crowd to march on the presidential residence, and numerous warnings, Armenian riot police dispersed the crowd and detained about 200 people on public disorder charges.

International human rights organizations accused the government of disproportionate use of force shortly afterwards and urged for a thorough investigation into alleged police brutality to be conducted.

Human Rights Watch stated that even if the demonstration was illegal, “nothing can justify physical attacks on largely peaceful demonstrators and journalists.” Meanwhile the OSCE said Armenia must “fully respect” the rights of protesters to exercise “freedom of peaceful assembly,” and urged an “impartial” investigation into events.