Authorities in Yerevan suspended the construction of large retail kiosks in a municipal park on Wednesday after almost two weeks of daily demonstrations staged by environment protection and other civic groups.
Officials said no further construction work will be carried out there until the end of this week.
“Suspension is a legal category, don’t use that word,” Karen Movsisian, a senior officer from Yerevan’s police department, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “[Construction] has simply been stopped. They are simply given time to do things in a legal manner.”
Movsisian did not elaborate. In a statement issued on Tuesday, the police offered to hold a roundtable discussion with relevant civic groups on “the legal grounds for the police actions” against mostly young activists who have been trying to halt the shop construction.
In what they consider an attempt to save more green areas in the Armenian capital from destruction, the protesters have repeatedly blocked the construction, forcing builders to work overnight and request police protection. Police presence in the Mashtots Park was especially strong on Tuesday.
Only a handful of police officers guarded the construction site on Wednesday as it continued to be picketed by several dozen activists. Organizers of the protests were distrustful of the construction suspension announced by the police.
“Our actions threatened to gain a huge resonance. That is why [the authorities] realized that it’s wrong to press us or let this movement gain momentum,” Mariam Sukhudian, a prominent environmental activist, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
“We will keep coming to the park every day just as we have in the last 12 days,” she said.