YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Hundreds of mostly young people re-occupied a central Yerevan avenue and faced off with riot police late on Friday in renewed protests against the recent increase in electricity prices in Armenia.
The protesters blocked a section of the Marshal Bagramian Avenue leading to the presidential palace after their leaders accused the Armenian government of reneging on its pledge to fully subsidize the tariffs.
No To Plunder, a youth group that organized the protest, argued that the temporary subsidy does not cover the vast majority of businesses and other corporate consumers. It also claimed that even households in some Armenian regions are being forced to pay more for electricity.
“This is obvious fraud. All government statements suggest that electricity will very soon become more expensive for all of us,” one of the group’s leaders, Maxim Sargsian, said at a rally held in Yerevan’s Liberty Square earlier in the evening.
Sargsian said No To Plunder is therefore demanding that the Armenian authorities formally and fully scrap the more than 17 percent tariff increase that was approved by state regulators in June. “We will go to the end this time around,” he declared before the protesters marched to Marshal Bagramian Avenue, chanting “Serzhik liar!” and “Join us!”
The protesters were stopped by lines of riot police at an avenue section that was the scene of a two-week standoff between youth activists and security forces in late June and early July. They sat on the ground after failing to break through the police cordon. Some of them danced and sang songs in scenes reminiscent of the summer protests dubbed “Electric Yerevan.”
Senior police officers urged the crowd to unblock the street, saying that the demonstration was not sanctioned by municipal authorities and can be forcibly broken up. But the police did not immediately act on those threats.
The protesters, for their part, remained defiant, with Sargsian saying that they will not disperse until their demands are met by the Sarkisian administration. The youth leader acknowledged that No To Plunder has attracted fewer demonstrators this time around. He said he hopes that more Armenians will join the protest later in the evening.
The standoff continued as of 10 p.m. local time.