Scores of people turned out for a demonstration in the Armenian capital of Yerevan on Friday to express their support for European integration and speak against the decision to join a Russian-led trade bloc as a high-level European Union summit concluded in Lithuania.
Armenia had been on course to initial an Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, with the EU at the November 29 Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, but in September it decided not to go ahead, preferring to join the Customs Union. Instead, Yerevan and Brussels signed a joint statement saying that they will not proceed with the initialing of the accord “due to Armenia’s new international commitments.” The two parties have also agreed on the need “to update the EU-Armenia European Neighborhood Policy Action Plan.”
Addressing the participants of the rally held in central Liberty Square tonight Soviet-era dissident and veteran politician Paruyr Hayrikian called the government’s failure to initial the accord with the EU “a great villainy” committed against Armenians.
Hayrikian said that President Serzh Sarkisian had turned down the opportunity of ensuring progress for the Armenian people. “A disgraceful choice has been made,” the oppositionist charged. “The European Union that has a history of 60 years, has seen crises and managed to overcome them has been rejected in favor of an alliance of three miserable dictators,” Hayrikian added in reference to the presidents of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, the three countries currently making up the Customs Union.
Other speakers at the event also condemned the government’s decision to join the Russian-led union. David Sanasarian, of the opposition Heritage party, announced an initiative to stage a protest in central Yerevan on December 2, the day when Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to pay a state visit to Armenia.
The organizers of the demonstration announced that they plan to hold a similar action next Friday.