Anna SaghabalianUp to ten thousand supporters of the Armenian Communist Party rallied in Yerevan on Wednesday to demand Armenia's accession to the Russia-Belarus union. The protesters chanted "Union" to the accompaniment of the Soviet anthem as they gathered in the city's center to back long-standing Communist demands for a nationwide referendum on the issue.
Senior member of the Communist parliamentary faction Hrant Voskanian discussing his party's motion on joining Russia-Belarus union with other deputies of the Armenian Parliament
The crowd was told to march to the parliament building after the National Assembly refused to debate a Communist motion to ask President Robert Kocharian to call the referendum. Some deputies were surrounded by the angry protesters and prevented from leaving the building until the crowd dispersed later in the day.
The pro-Russian party's leaders last month vowed to revive their campaign for Armenia's membership of the union, seeing it as the only way of addressing enormous socioeconomic problems facing the country. They said the Armenian authorities have broken their pledge to examine the matter thoroughly and have instead remained committed to a "pro-Western" foreign policy.
President Robert Kocharian and most of the country's mainstream political parties are opposed to the idea, arguing that Armenia's relations with Russia are already sufficiently close.