Critics of Armenian President keep up pressure
23 July 2016

There are some indications that the hostage situation in the Erebuni District of the Armenian Capital Yerevan may be coming to a close.

It was reported on Saturday morning that the armed men holding a number of policemen at the station they attacked last Sunday have released two policemen, and are ready to release the remaining two senior officers soon. The kidnappers are however demanding access to the media before they release the last two hostages. It is not clear what will happen to the armed men but it is likely that they will be charged with the murder of a police officer who was killed at the start of the incident on Sunday.

The end of the stand-off however will not mean the end of the political crisis that it has triggered in Armenia. Over the last week it has become clear that the armed men involved in the incident have considerable sympathy among Armenian society, if not for their methods, at least for the cause that they are upholding, namely to bring down the government of President Serzh Sargsyan, and more specifically to reject the ideas being currently discussed aimed at resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It is understood that these ideas, articulated by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, require Armenia to return to Azerbaijan large chunks of the territory that it has occupied for more than two decades around Nagorno-Karabakh itself.

On Friday, Opposition MP Nikol Pashinyan called for the resignation of Serzh Sargsyan and urged peaceful protests against concessions in the Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations.

So far the public protests around the Eerebuni Police Station have only attracted a few hundred people, but the government is concerned that it may snowball into something much bigger. There have been nightly scuffles between demonstrators and police, with injuries on both sides. Hundreds have been arrested and many claim they were beaten up by the police when in custody. On Friday, President Sargsyan, breaking his silence on the matter, noted the importance of doing everything for a peaceful solution to the crisis .

The Armenian President said that the idea that problems could be solved through violence and force is very dangerous, and is fraught with serious consequences for the entire country.

"I urge all members of our society to exercise their political and civil rights exclusively in a peaceful way and within the law," Sargsyan said.
The President also urged the personnel of the law enforcement agencies to exercise restraint and act "within the rule of law". He assured that the government would act patiently "without making society a hostage", and would not act "in a traditional way for such situations".

Source: with agencies

Photo: Stand-off between demonstrators and police outside the Erebuni Police Station where armed men are holding several policemen hostage. (picture courtesy of mediamax)