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YEREVAN, June 23. /TASS/. The US Embassy to Armenia has expressed concern about reports of excessive use of force by police early on Tuesday during protests about rising electricity prices in the capital Yerevan.
"We are concerned about reports of excessive police use of force to disperse the crowd in the morning of June 23, as well as several reports of abuse while in police custody," an embassy statement said.
"In addition, we are troubled by reports that journalists and their equipment were specifically targeted during the operation," it said.
"We were encouraged by the responsible and generally respectful behavior by both protestors and police on the evening of June 22 during the protests over the planned rise in electricity prices," the statement added.
"Freedom of speech and assembly are fundamental rights in any democracy, and we were pleased to see both sides work in a manner that respected these rights and did not escalate tensions," the statement continued.
"It is imperative that the Government conduct a full and transparent investigation of reports of the excessive use of force by the police to the full extent of Armenian law," the embassy said.
Earlier, Armenia’s law enforcement agencies circulated a statement saying police had to use force because the organizers of the action had ignored demands to disperse.
They cited "lengthy negotiations" in which police had asked the organizers of an illegal rally to "restore public order". Police said there had also been several announcements that the Armenian president was ready to pay heed to protesters’ demands.
Police also said the organizers failed to comply with numerous demands to stop the illegal march despite being given a "reasonable deadline." The protesters had been warned about police powers in case they refused to halt their illegal actions.
Police said reporters, who were covering events at the scene, also failed to "maintain a distance" and therefore in fact "became the participants" of the rally.
Armenia’s police on Tuesday morning dispersed the rally in Yerevan held in protest against the increase in electricity tariffs. Police used water cannons, forcing protesters to move towards the National Opera House from Marshal Baghramyan Avenue, where some government buildings are situated.