The Armenian authorities are still trying to peacefully end a standoff with armed loyalists of a jailed opposition leader holding four hostages at a police station in Yerevan seized by them, Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian said on Thursday.
Abrahamian condemned Sunday’s armed attack, which left one police officer dead and four others wounded, as he opened a weekly session of his cabinet.
“What happened at the [Yerevan] regiment of the Patrol Security Service is condemnable and inadmissible because it’s impossible to achieve real change through violence,” he said. “It’s a dangerous and futile exercise.”
“The situation is extremely worrisome and the authorities are doing and will do everything to achieve its peaceful resolution,” added the premier.
Abrahamian was the first senior Armenian government official to have publicly commented on the hostage crisis threatening to destabilize the situation in the country. President Serzh Sarkisian has still not made any public statements.
Nor has Sarkisian been seen in public since about two dozen gunmen affiliated with Founding Parliament, a radical opposition group, stormed the police compound in Yerevan’s Erebuni district. Senior members of his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) have also refused to speak to the press this week.
The unprecedented silence has left Armenian media, observers and opposition politicians wondering just how the authorities intend to deal with the crisis.
Economy Minister Artsvik Minasian said on Thursday that the gunmen must unconditionally free the four policemen held hostage by them and surrender to law-enforcement bodies “as soon as possible.”
Armenia’s police an National Security Service (NSS) have repeatedly made such appeals to the hostage takers. The latter continue to demand, however, that President Sarkisian resign and free Zhirayr Sefilian, Founding Parliament’s leader arrested last month for allegedly plotting an armed revolt.
The hostage situation provoked late on Wednesday violent clashes between riot police and over 200 Founding Parliament sympathizers that rallied near the seized police station. The protesters threw stones and tried to break through a police cordon before being dispersed at dawn. According to the Armenian Health Ministry, 45 policemen and protesters were injured in the clashes.
A police statement released on Thursday said a total of 136 protesters were detained overnight. It said many of them were set free later but gave no numbers.
Earlier in the day, Armenia’s Investigative Committee said that 16 individuals could be prosecuted on charges of participating in the “mass disturbances.”