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3 Mar, 2008 01:04

Armenian army brings order after riots

Troops and armoured vehicles are now patrolling the main streets of Armenia's capital, Yerevan, following violent riots which claimed eight lives. More than 100 people were injured. A 20-day state of emergency has now been imposed.

The decree imposes media restrictions and bans public gatherings. On Sunday General Colonel Seyran Oganyan, a Chief of Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces, asked Yerevan’s citizens to abide by the ruling for their own safety.

“I discourage everybody from trying to bypass the restrictions imposed by the state of emergency. Please be disciplined and comply with the steps the army is taking to implement the state of emergency. Particularly I would like to ask people to refrain from gathering in Yerevan even in small groups. When even the slightest suspicion the army will take action against such groups as prescribed by the law and the constitution,” proclaimed Seyran Oganyan.

On Saturday night police clashed with supporters of ex-president Levon Ter-Petrosyan who claim the country's recent presidential election – in which he came second – was rigged.

When police tried to disperse the crowd, the demonstration quickly turned violent.

Protestors hurled stones and petrol bombs at riot police, who responded with tear gas and firing in the air.

Ter-Petrosyan alleged the authorities had planned the violence.

“The Armenian authorities achieved their goals – they showed the whole world that the opposition used force and it gave them the chance to declare a state of emergency,” he said.

Yerevan is not used to unrest, and had never before seen its main square thronged with servicemen. The violence has divided public opinion.

“Those who were protesting last night are not opposition supporters – they are nothing more than rioters, people who don't like seeing the country developing day by day,” believes a local resident.

“I don't think people will accept how they have been treated. The government used force against its own people. Armenians won't accept it, not for 20 days or for 20 years – we will always remember,” said another Yerevan resident.

The protestors' makeshift weapons are still being gathered up, and their barricades dismantled. But the normally quiet city of Yerevan is still in the state of shock.