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The impending increase in the electricity prices in Armenia will not be as drastic as has been requested by the Russian-owned national power distribution network, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Yervand Zakharian said on Thursday.

Earlier this month, the Electricity Networks of Armenia (ENA) utility asked the Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC) to allow it to raise its daytime tariff by as much as 40 percent, to almost 59 drams (12 U.S. cents) per kilowatt/hour. The company cited its continuing financial losses and outstanding debts to power plants and commercial banks.

“I don’t think that [the price] will go up by 17 drams [per kilowatt/hour,]” Zakharian told reporters. He implied that the PSRC will sanction a more modest price rise. The decision should be announced next week, he said.

The unpopular measure is resisted by Armenian opposition politicians and other government critics. They say that the ENA’s financial troubles are the result of poor management, rather than a low electricity price.

Thousands of people protested against the price hike sought by the ENA as they as they demonstrated in Yerevan on Wednesday.

Gagik Melikian, a senior pro-government lawmaker, said on Thursday that the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) shares their concerns. “The HHK does not detach itself from the people and has the same concerns,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).

However, Melikian was careful not to explicitly speak out against any changes in the existing energy tariffs. He said only that the state utility regulators should “meticulously” examine the ENA’s application and avoid “unfounded” price rises.

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