Armenia protesters leaving barricades amid authorities’ call for ‘constitutional order’

RIA Novosti/PAN Photo/Hrant Khachatryan
Scores of protesters have left Yerevan’s central avenue, shifting their anti-electricity hike rally to the Freedom Square, as the country’s PM urged those who stayed for “unknown political motives” to avoid anti-constitutional actions and provocations.

The organizers of the ‘No to Robbery!’ movement on Freedom Square have said that people will stay there to decide on their next move and to avoid confrontation with authorities after the deputy chief of Yerevan Police, Colonel Valery Osipyan urged them to vacate Bagramyan Avenue which they have been blocking for almost a week.

Only several hundred protesters remained in Bagramyan Avenue overnight, with some of them trying to persuade those who left to return and support their “common” goal. Those who refused to return to Bagramyan Avenue however said, it was important to find a “worthy way” to fight back without getting drawn into adventurism, Armenia Today reported.

Speaking to the crowd earlier on Sunday, Osipyan said that police will do “all that is necessary to restore public order,” but stressed that for now authorities will not take any action against the activists who have paralyzed the center of the Armenian capital.

Osipyan said that police would certainly issue a prior warning if they eventually decide to move in and clear the barricades. The senior policeman also noted that there were some young provocateurs among the protesters and called on politicians who are siding with the activists to properly address these potentially dangerous elements.

One protester from the crowd has already been detained after he took to the stage and urged an armed rebellion against the government.

“You don’t negotiate with viruses, you destroy them. In other words through armed struggle,” the protester was quoted as saying. As a result the young man was detained by the police for inciting violence.

Meanwhile, Armenia’s Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan warned that provocateurs are present among the activists gathered in central Yerevan.

The PM said that their “real aim” is not to fight the price hike on electricity, but to “destabilize the situation in the country” and create “clashes among our citizens,” to pursue “short sighted political aspirations.”

The intent to destabilize the situation is evident, according to Abrahamyan, because demonstrators are continuing to protests, despite President Serzh Sargsyan’s Saturday concessions.

READ MORE: Armenia protesters demand more time to consider next move after govt concessions

“Confirming the readiness of the authorities to engage in dialogue and work together, I once again call upon our fellow citizens who continue to protest on Bagramyan to refrain from unconstitutional actions and not to aggravate the situation,” the PM said, as he urged the activist not to provoke police.

On Saturday Armenian President Sargsyan promised that the government would bear the burden of electricity price hikes, pending an audit of how justified the tariff raise was its consequences would be for the country’s economy.

Sargsyan said that the government would go ahead with the 16-per cent hike in electricity prices due on August 1. However, he promised that the government would temporarily compensate all costs related to the price hikes until an international audit of the Electric Networks of Armenia company.

“Annulling the tariff raise is extremely dangerous,” he said. “If an audit confirms that the tariff raise is justified, consumers will start paying according to a new price.”