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EU, Russia Also Condemn Armed Attack On Armenian Police


Armenia -- Armenian police officers with armored vehicles block a street leading to a seized police station in the district of Erebuni in Yerevan, Armenia, 17 July 2016.

Armenia -- Armenian police officers with armored vehicles block a street leading to a seized police station in the district of Erebuni in Yerevan, Armenia, 17 July 2016.

The European Union and Russia on Thursday joined the United States in condemning the deadly attack on a police station in Yerevan launched by gunmen affiliated with an Armenian radical opposition group.

“We stress that the use of force to achieve political change is unacceptable and offer our condolences to the family of Colonel Artur Vanoyan, Deputy Commander of the Patrol Regiment of the Yerevan Police Department [killed in the attack,]” the EU Delegation in Armenia said in a statement.

“We regard as unacceptable these criminal manifestations that pose a direct threat to the life and security of the country’s citizens,” said the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova.

According to the RIA Novosti news agency, Zakharova said Russia supports the Armenian authorities’ to end a continuing standoff with the gunmen. “We expect that those measures will help to resolve the situation very soon,” she told a news briefing in Moscow.

By contrast, the EU expressed concern over “excessive” use of police force against hundreds of people that have rallied in Yerevan in support of the gunmen still occupying the police compound. It also criticized protesters that resorted to violence.

The U.S. State Department on Tuesday similarly condemned “the use of violence to effect political change in Armenia,” commenting on the seizure of the police station by armed members of the Founding Parliament movement.

The gunmen are demanding the release of Founding Parliament’s arrested leader, Zhirayr Sefilian, and President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation. Some 200 people sympathetic to them clashed with riot police in Yerevan on Wednesday.

At least 136 of them were detained in the following hours. It was not clear how many of them remained in police custody as of Thursday afternoon.

“With concern we note reports on excessive use of force and mass arrests by the police,” read the EU Delegation statement endorsed by the Yerevan-based ambassadors of France, Germany and several other EU member states.

“In that regard, we call on the authorities to observe the principle of proportionality in handling public manifestations, which applies to both peaceful and violent gatherings,” it said. “Likewise, demonstrators need to refrain from violence in the exercise of their civil rights.”

Several protesters were punched and kicked by law-enforcement officers as they were detained early on Thursday.

A team of Armenian civic activists visited some detainees later in the morning. One of its members, Suren Iskandarian, said they were allowed to interview a 22-year-old man suspected of assaulting police officers during the late-night clash.

“He said that he didn’t fight or throw stones,” Iskandarian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “He said he only shouted at policemen.”

The civic monitors found no traces of violence on the young man’s body, added Iskandarian. Nevertheless, he insisted that the police did use excessive force while pushing back the angry crowd on a Yerevan street leading to the seized police station.

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