Vardanyan: ‘It’s Important that the Movement Retain Original and Pure Spirit’
YEREVAN (A.W.)—Deputy Police Chief Valery Osipyan announced today that police will not seek ways to remove the Electric Yerevan protesters from Marshal Baghramyan Avenue, and will instead wait until they leave on their own terms. Osipyan’s announcement came only a day after Yerevan police threatened to dismantle the barricade built by protesters and unblock Baghramyan Avenue.
On June 28, activists from the “No to Plunder” movement, which organized the protests, rejected President Serge Sarkisian’s offer for a compromise, which included suspending the electricity price hike and subsidizing—at least until an international audit—the increased cost. Sarkisian, however, said he was convinced the price hike was justified, and that the government would stop subsidizing the increase if the audit results indicated that the Electric Networks of Armenia (ENA) was innocent of any wrongdoing.
Maxim Sargsyan, a leader of the “No to Plunder” group, announced on June 29 that the sit-in at Liberty Square would not continue overnight. Late on Sunday night, the leaders of the group had urged the protesters to move their demonstration to Liberty Square, to allow the reopening of the street to traffic. Although some protesters heeded the group’s appeal, many decided to stay on Baghramyan Avenue until the authorities met their demands.
National Assembly member and Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Supreme Council representative Aghvan Vardanyan, who—along with other parliamentarians and public figures—has continued to be with the protesters, said the demonstrations reflect the people’s distrust in the government as well as the political system.
According to Yerkir Media, Vardanyan also said that the developments on June 28 made it clear that the movement has no leadership or organization. “Perhaps this is a good thing, and it reminds one of an organized chaos,” he continued. “Sadly, the ‘organization’ decreased yesterday. In such situations, all forces that have no base, that are essentially small groups, come on to the scene and try to use the situation to their own advantage. Until this moment, I believe the political forces have been wise. No political force can at this moment sway the movement toward it—that would be wrong. And it is very important that the movement retains its original and pure spirit,” Vardanyan was quoted as saying.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Monday afternoon, Vaghinak Shushanyan, one of the leaders of “No to Plunder,” defended the decision to move to Liberty Square, stating that it was a necessary step to prevent bloodshed. “I was worried that the police forces would take action,” Shushanyan was quoted as saying. He also announced that “No to Plunder” is no longer responsible for developments on Baghramyan Avenue, even if activists continue to occupy the street.
As of Monday evening, activists have continued to hold their protest on Baghramyan Avenue, although the number seems to have dropped compared to previous days.
In a statement delivered to protesters at Liberty Square, Shushanyan said “No to Plunder” believes that the struggle on the streets has reached its peak, and has decided to widen the scope by engaging citizens in different ways. Shushanyan also said that the group would be ready to protest on the streets again if their demands aren’t met. He invited activists, lawyers, and concerned citizens to join the struggle for justice in the country.
On June 17, the Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC) of Armenia unanimously voted to raise energy tariffs in the country. Thousands of people gathered in Yerevan’s Liberty Square on the evening of June 19, to protest the government’s adoption of a 17-percent rise in electricity rates. What was initially slated as a march in the city center against the price hike turned into an unexpected mass sit-in.