The United States has reaffirmed its strong condemnation of the 2016 seizure by opposition gunmen of a police station in Yerevan and any other attempts to forcibly overthrow Armenia’s government.
Richard Mills, the U.S. ambassador to Armenia, was asked by Aysor.am to comment on “rumors” that the West supports armed groups like Sasna Tsrer which stormed the police compound in Yerevan’s Erebuni district.
“Those rumors couldn’t be farther from the truth,” Mills told the online publication in comments published on Wednesday. “We do not support groups seeking to illegally overthrow an elected government. And especially with groups like Sansa Tsrer, who chose violence over dialogue, our condemnation is firm.”
“We abhor the actions of Sasna Tsrer and others who use violence or who threaten to harm others to serve their political agenda,” he said. “The actions of the members of Sansa Tsrer last year led to a tragic loss of life and unnecessarily terrorized the surrounding community.
“Violence as a tool to bring about political change goes against not only U.S. values, but also global democratic values of peaceful dialogue and respect for human life. Violence on all sides undermines democratic principles and can never be tolerated. So no, we do not support such groups or activities.”
“That said, all those who stand accused deserve a fair trial,” added the diplomat.
The three dozen gunmen mostly affiliated with Founding Parliament, a radical opposition movement, seized the Erebuni base on July 17, 2016. They demanded that President Serzh Sarkisian free Founding Parliament’s jailed leader, Zhirayr Sefilian, and step down.
The Armenian authorities rejected those demands. The gunmen laid down their weapons after a two-week standoff with security forces which left three police officers dead. They are currently standing three separate trials.
The U.S. State Department was quick to condemn the armed attack, while urging the authorities in Yerevan to exercise “restraint.” The U.S. Embassy in Armenia reiterated that condemnation after three Armenian medics were taken hostage by the gunmen a few days later. It called for their “immediate, safe, and unconditional release.”