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Hrach Melkumian
The Armenian Communists will on Wednesday try to fulfil their pledge to revive their long-running campaign for Armenia's accession to the Russia-Belarus union when they rally supporters to the streets of Yerevan. The Communist Party leadership said Tuesday it expects thousands of people to turn up for a demonstration in the capital and send a strong message to the authorities that have been unwilling to embrace the idea.

The pro-Russian party's first secretary, Vladimir Darpinian, said the protestors will demand that the issue be discussed by the parliament and then put on a referendum. Darpinian repeated his assertion that the vast majority of Armenia would vote for the union.

The Communists planned a similar rally in May last year but called off the action after an appeal from Kocharian who promised to study their demands. They now say the authorities in Yerevan have never given the matter a serious thought and remain committed to what they see as a "pro-Western" foreign policy.

President Robert Kocharian and most of the country's mainstream political parties are opposed to the idea, arguing that Armenia's relations with Russia are already sufficiently close.
Darpinian rejected argument that membership of the Russia-Belarus union would entail loss of Armenia's independence, which he said is already "relative.

"When Russians troops are guarding our borders what independence are you talking about?" he asked at a news conference.
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