The Armenian police have used force and special means to clear the site of a demonstration in a central Yerevan street after a night of standoff with activists protesting against rising electricity prices.
In the early hours on Tuesday, special police forces used water cannons and other equipment to disperse the crowd of hundreds of protesters who spent more than nine hours seated in the street not far from the presidential compound.
The protesters insisted that their actions were peaceful and demanded that President Serzh Sarkisian revoke the decision made by state regulators to raise electricity prices by 16 percent beginning August 1.
After several warnings that the protest was “unlawful” the police started their operation at around 5:30 am. RFE/RL Armenian Service correspondents witnessed demonstrators being roughed up and chased, with some of them injured in the scuffles.
Many demonstrators were also detained and taken to police stations in vehicles. Among those detained were also some journalists.
A number of media representatives were also subjected to violence during the events. Among them was also an RFE/RL Armenian Service cameraman. Police also roughed up several other members of the RFE/RL crew working at the protest site and one of them, Garik Harutiunian, was briefly detained. Another RFE/RL cameraman, Garik Azibekian, only barely avoided detention. Correspondent Sisak Gabrielian, who was one of those covering the standoff live during the night, suffered bruises, while editor Artur Papian's mobile phone was damaged by police.
At least one RFE/RL camera used for providing the live streaming of the unfolding drama was broken by the police. Other equipment used by RFE/RL correspondents was also damaged. Senior police officers dismissed their complaints, refusing to provide explanations.
The clashes in Baghramyan Avenue followed three days of protests in a nearby square by activists from the pressure group called No To Plunder.
Late on Monday they tried to stage a march towards the presidential palace, but stopped after encountering a heavy police cordon. They eventually decided to proceed with their sitting strike on the approaches to the thoroughfare.
Meanwhile, groups of citizens also reportedly staged protests against rising electricity prices elsewhere in the country overnight.