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War Veterans Suspend Yerevan Protests


Armenia - Veterans of the Karabakh war demonstrate outside a government building in Yerevan, 6Jun2013.

Armenia - Veterans of the Karabakh war demonstrate outside a government building in Yerevan, 6Jun2013.

Dozens of veterans of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh ended an almost month-long sit-in in Yerevan on Friday after the Armenian government promised to consider a sizable increase in their modest pensions demanded by them.

The veterans began campaigning for greater state benefits last month following lone protests staged by Volodya Avetisian, a retired Armenian army colonel, in the city’s Liberty Square. The protesters who have since gathered in the square on a daily bases demand that the government raise the monthly pensions paid to them and other veterans to 200,000 drams ($480). They currently average 70,000 drams.

The Armenian Defense Ministry has repeatedly assured the veterans that it is doing its best to have the government improve their plight. The protesters have dismissed these assurances. They marched to Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian’s office during a weekly meeting of his cabinet on Thursday.

Sarkisian met with Avetisian and several other protesting veterans the following day. Labor and Social Affairs Minister Artem Asatrian was also present at the two-hour meeting. A statement by Sarkisian’s press office said he told them that the government will look into ways of raising their pensions and propose a solution to them later this month.

Avetisian confirmed the information, saying that the premier seemed to be genuinely willing to address their concerns. “We do realize that it’s one thing to have a desire and it’s another thing to find a solution,” he told journalists. “[Sarkisian] said that he will meet us within a month and present us with what can be done to help us.”

Avetisian added that the sit-in will be suspended until further notice. The veterans will again gather in Liberty Square on June 16, he said.

Some protesters were skeptical about the prime minister’s assurances. “I don’t have good expectations. I have no faith,” said one middle-aged man who claimed to be paid only 36,000 drams a month by the state.

“I think they are fooling us,” said another veteran. “Our government is a bunch of liars.”
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