Riot police made three arrests on Wednesday as they clashed with several dozen activists who gathered outside the Russian Embassy in Yerevan to condemn Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine.
The protesters, most of them young civic activists, held Ukrainian flags, anti-Kremlin banners and derogatory pictures of Russian President Vladimir Putin during the demonstration.
Police officers at the scene told them to move over to the opposite sidewalk, saying that the protest is interfering with the work of the Russian mission. The small crowd defied what it saw as an illegal order before being pushed away from the embassy building in city center.
Three of the activists were detained and taken to a nearby police station as a result. The angry activists marched to the station to demand their immediate release.
Stepan Safarian, a leading member of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) also present at the protest, condemned the police actions, saying that the Armenian authorities have allowed and even organized demonstrations outside other foreign diplomatic missions before. “Why is it allowed to protest outside one embassy but not another one?” he said.
Safarian and other Zharangutyun leaders have condemned the Russian military action in Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, unlike Armenia’s government and representatives of other major political groups. The government has refused to comment on the Ukrainian crisis in any way.
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian and Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian refused to answer questions about the situation in Ukraine as they were confronted by journalists during a visit to Armenia’s main military cemetery on Wednesday.
Ohanian only gave a vague answer to a question about Armenia’s potential involvement in the crisis as a Russian military ally. “I think the situation today is such that it is under control by the governments in both Ukraine and Russia,” he said.