President Serzh Sarkisian has praised his administration’s response to last July’s attack on a police station in Yerevan carried out by opposition gunmen, saying that they were neutralized with minimum bloodshed.
“You will hardly find as much softness as I constantly express in any other country,” he said in remarks made at a weekend meeting in Nagorno-Karabakh and publicized by his press office on Thursday.
“I think that during the July events the authorities could have demonstrated force and no international structure or foreign state would have rebuked them,” he told a group of Armenian artists and intellectuals visiting Stepanakert. “But we, taking a big risk, opted for actions that led to very little bloodshed.”
The Armenian authorities showed “what can be done to individuals who want to change the government through weapons,” he said.
Sarkisian referred to three dozen armed members and supporters of a radical opposition group, Founding Parliament, who seized the police compound in Yerevan’s Erebuni district on July 17. The gunmen demanded his resignation and the release of Zhirayr Sefilian, Founding Parliament’s jailed leader. They took police officers and medical personnel hostage before surrendering to security forces.
Security forces avoided storming the compound during the two-week standoff which left three police officers dead. They shot and wounded some of the armed oppositionists.
Sarkisian criticized Armenian intellectuals for not publicly condemning the Erebuni attack. “How many people who consider themselves intellectuals and cultural figures spoke out and condemned the July events?” he said.
“Preventing violence is certainly the state’s job,” he went on. “But you all speak of the rule of law, and if the state does not take tough measures there will be no law and order. But preventing violence is also the civil society’s job. Maybe the most important one.
“I am sure that if even a hundred people -- and in our country tens of thousands of people consider themselves intellectuals -- came out and set the record straight, we could have overcome those problems much more easily.”