Armenia’s Ministry of Health on Thursday renewed its calls for anti-government gunmen occupying a police compound in Yerevan to release an ambulance crew held hostage by them.
The two doctors, a nurse and a paramedic were taken hostage on Wednesday morning after they went into the compound to help some of the gunmen that were wounded by security forces besieging them. The paramedic was released later in the day.
Founding Parliament, a fringe opposition movement to which the gunmen belong, claimed that the medics are not hostages, while acknowledging that they are being kept in the police facility against their will.
“We will release the doctors if the [health] minister personally shows up and organizes surgeries in this territory,” the armed group itself said in a short message posted on Facebook on Wednesday afternoon.
Health Minister Armen Muradian went to the scene of the standoff in the city’s Erebuni district later in the day. However, security forces reportedly kept him from entering the seized compound.
In a statement released the following day, Muradian’s ministry said the hostage taking “went beyond all humanitarian bounds and is unacceptable in the entire world.”
“The Ministry of Health is again calling for the unconditional release of the medical personnel being held hostage,” it said.
The appeal was echoed by prominent doctors running various Armenian hospitals. Two medics working at Yerevan’s ambulance service held a news conference in Yerevan on Thursday to also demand the release of their colleagues.
The Ministry of Health insisted that the wounded gunmen can receive adequate medical assistance only within hospitals. The armed group is objecting to their hospitalization presumably because that would be immediately followed by their arrest.
Two other gunmen underwent surgery in a hospital early on Wednesday after being wounded in disputed circumstances. They both were then placed under arrest.
The armed group already took several police officers hostage when it seized the police premises on July 17, killing another policeman. All of those hostages were released by July 23.
The Armenian authorities afterwards continued to reject the gunmen’s demands for the release of Founding Parliament’s arrested leader, Zhirayr Sefilian, and President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation.
The authorities seem in no rush to order the Armenian police and the National Security Service to launch a full-scale attack on the gunmen. Hermine Naghdalian, a senior member of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) said on Thursday that they remain committed to a peaceful resolution of the hostage crisis and will do “everything” to avoid more bloodshed.
Naghdalian spoke to journalists after a late-night meeting of the HHK’s governing body chaired by Sarkisian.