YEREVAN — Yerevan Mayor Taron Markarian avoided reacting on Monday to continuing street protests against a controversial rise in the cost of public transport that was ordered but subsequently annulled by him.
Dozens of youth activists held a non-stop sit-in just outside the Mayor’s Office for a fourth consecutive day, demanding the resignation of two senior transport officials. They say the municipal administration must also compensate those Yerevan commuters who paid higher bus fares for almost a week.
Speaking to Tert.am, one of the activists, Vahagn Minasian, said no employees of the municipality paid attention to them early in the morning except Anahit Bakhshyan of the opposition Barev Yerevan (Hello Yerevan) bloc.
“We issued a statement today, expressing our demands in detail,” he said. The protesters are calling for the resignation of the Transport Department head, Henrik Navasardian, and the director of the Yerevantrans company, Vahagn Minasian.
Markarian made no mention of the protests as he chaired a weekly meeting of top municipal officials. He has not yet reacted to the protests in any other way.
Anahit Bakhshian, an opposition member of Yerevan’s municipal assembly who also attended the meeting, suggested that the mayor has no intention to make more concessions. “There was no talk of what happened in Yerevan last week, what it means and who is responsible for that. I didn’t see any concerns,” Bakhshian said.
Markarian on Monday only instructed his staff to ask civic groups to propose candidacies for an ad hoc commission which is due to look into ways of reforming Yerevan’s transport system. The mayor pledged to set up such a body when he suspended the more 50 percent transport fare hike last week.
Leaders of the protesting youths said they will not participate in the commission’s work until Markarian meets their demands. “We are not going to work together with criminal-oligarchic elements and rude individuals who have a record of making or implementing illegal decisions,” one of them, Vahagn Minasian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).