Opposition leader Vartan Oskanian on Thursday heaped praise on the arrested members of an armed opposition group who seized a police base in Yerevan last year.
“These guys are patriots who made a great contribution to the liberation of Karabakh,” Oskanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Our people have a very positive attitude towards them, and the people voiced support for the issues raised by them at that time.”
“I have regarded -- both then and now -- what they did on the political plane because it was a political action,” he said.
The three dozen gunmen mostly affiliated with the Founding Parliament opposition movement attacked the police facility in Yerevan’s Erebuni district in July one month after the controversial arrest of Zhirayr Sefilian, Founding Parliament’s top leader. They also demanded Sefilian’s immediate release. The gunmen led by Varuzhan Avetisian, a senior Founding Parliament member, laid down their arms after a two-week standoff with security forces, which left three police officers dead.
Sefilian and Avetisian on Wednesday expressed solidarity with supporters of the ORO opposition alliance who were attacked by government loyalists in the village of Jrarat on Tuesday. The incident occurred two days after several local ORO backers overpowered and disarmed an off-duty police officer who allegedly threatened them following an election campaign rally held in Jrarat by ORO. The bloc is co-headed by Oskanian, Raffi Hovannisian and former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian.
“We also welcome the dignified and resolute position of the Alliance’s leader, Seyran Ohanian, regarding the incident,” Sefilian and Avetisian said in a joint statement released from prison.
The jailed oppositionists also praised the ORO supporters in Jrarat for “responding to violence with violence” and urged Armenians to prepare for a “popular revolt.”
Oskanian welcomed that statement, saying that “they see us as the force that can solve the issues” that were raised by the Erebuni gunmen. This “will only reflect positively” on ORO’s standing, he said.
Oskanian publicly voiced support for the gunmen and their demands during the Erebuni standoff. “I stand with those guys,” said on July 22, demanding government concessions to them.
Hovannisian similarly declared in early August that the armed oppositionists are “counterterrorists” fighting for justice. By contrast, Ohanian, who was still Armenia’s defense minister at the time, disapproved of their actions.