Activists of a radical opposition movement seeking regime change in Armenia cut their trip short and cancelled their planned “automobile march” and rally in the country’s second largest city on Saturday as they claimed to possess information about local authorities’ planning provocations against them.
A motorcade of several dozen cars carrying members of Founding Parliament, a group campaigning for a decisive anti-government push on April 24, the day when the centennial of the Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey will be commemorated, decided to return to Yerevan from the outskirts of Gyumri where a group of youngsters had reportedly blocked off the main roads leading to the city.
Dozens of Founding Parliament activists, including their leader Zhirayr Sefilian, were already attacked on a similar campaign trip to Nagorno-Karabakh on January 31. Police and plainclothes men then confronted members and supporters of the movement on the Goris-Stepanakert highway, forcing them to turn away. That violent crackdown sparked uproar from the Armenian media and opposition and civic groups.
Sefilian told media on Saturday that in Gyumri the authorities also prepared other provocations against them, mainly near the building of the Russian consulate that had been taken by the Armenian police under protection.
Residents of Gyumri already staged protests near the consulate of the Russian Federation in January demanding that a soldier of the local Russian military base charged with killing a seven-member Armenian family be handed over to Armenian authorities.
Sefilian said they were wise enough not to “swallow the bait” and not to allow provocations that would later be blamed on Founding Parliament activists.
“The mere fact that the regime had put in place a police cordon around the Russian consulate building before our arrival is enough for us not to enter the city, because it is their desire to present Founding Parliament as a force serving certain geopolitical interests and to show our being anti-Russian,” he said.
Still, Sefilian announced the movement’s plans to travel to Gyumri again in the coming days for a larger rally “to explain to the residents what we want to do on April 24.”