Public transport between Yerevan and other regions of Armenia was again effectively brought to a halt on Thursday ahead of a fresh rally held there by the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK).
In what has become a pattern, bus stations in nearby small towns stood idle in the morning and early afternoon, making it practically impossible for local commuters to reach the Armenian capital.
Police patrolled the bus station and streets of Ashtarak, a town 25 kilometers west of Yerevan. Even taxis were nowhere to be seen there. Some local taxi drivers claimed on Wednesday evening that they have been banned from driving people to Yerevan the next.
“I don’t know why there are no cabs working today. Maybe they don’t have petrol and gas,” one police officer told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “They were here a short while go,” claimed another.
An Ashtarak cabdriver laughed off these claims. “How come the policemen don’t know that early in the morning they demanded and took away my driving documents,” he said. “They said I will get them back tomorrow. But I will still drive to Yerevan without my driving license.”
The driver and other Ashtarak residents linked the emergency with the upcoming HAK rally. “These authorities are so scared that they even stop vehicles going to hospital,” claimed one man.
Similar scenes could be observed in at least two other towns close to the capital. Transport communication with more remote regions also appeared to be restricted by the Armenian authorities.
At the main bus station of Armenia’s third largest city of Vanadzor, people waited in vain for buses and minibuses heading to Yerevan. “My brother is to undergo spine surgery in Yerevan. I need to get there,” one woman told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
“I’m going to the [Yerevan] airport,” said a man. “What if I’m late for my flight? Should I go there on foot?”
Travel to Yerevan was similarly complicated ahead of the HAK’s previous antigovernment demonstrations. The Armenian authorities deny opposition claims that they are thus trying to lower attendance at those rallies.