“Zhamanak” comments on the first anniversary of the gruesome killings of seven members of an Armenian family in Gyumri which were apparently committed by a Russian soldier serving at a local Russian military base. “The tragedy in Gyumri exposed the existence [in Armenia] of a civil society ready to speak out for the sake of national dignity,” writes the paper. “For all its problems with self-organization and difficulties with formulating demands, this resource, which may seem invisible and weak, can instantly come to the fore when necessary.”
“Hraparak” criticizes riot police for preventing several dozen activists of the New Armenia Public Salvation Front, a radical opposition grouping, from placing a Christmas tree in Yerevan’s Liberty Square and detaining five of them early on January 1. “The police do not show as much zeal as they do while confronting opposition activists when they hunt for thieves or other criminals,” writes the paper. “The conflict between the society and the police escalates precisely because of such incidents.” It says they also add to the existing “rift between ordinary citizens and the government.”
“Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” quotes Vahram Baghdasarian, the parliamentary leader of President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), as calling for the “isolation from the society” of those who want opposition forces to set up armed “self-defense” teams that would counter continuing violent attacks on opposition activists. The pro-opposition paper points out that government officials, HHK loyalists or their family members resorting to violence, including with firearms, have rarely been “isolated” by Armenian law-enforcement authorities.
The paper also deplores claims by unnamed, supposedly independent media outlets that there are no genuine opposition groups in Armenia and that a “new opposition” needs to be formed. It says this is part of the authorities’ efforts to promote fake opposition forces that will steer clear of anti-government protests and will only pretend to challenge Sarkisian.