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YEREVAN, June 29 /TASS/. The number of protesters rallying against a rise in electricity tariffs on Marshal Bagramyan prospect has grown multifold over the past 30 minutes, a TASS correspondent reported from Yerevan.
No more than 200 people continued rallying outside the House of Writers on Marshal Bagramyan prospect just 30 minutes ago. Now, about a thousand people have gathered in the city center. An informational rally was scheduled to take place in Yerevan at 18:00 local time (17:00 Moscow time). Concurrently, from 20 to 30 protesters pledged to march through Yerevan’s central streets calling on their compatriots to join them.
Yerevan’s deputy police chief Colonel Valery Osipyan has said the Armenian police will refrain from using force and will wait for the protesters to disperse peacefully on their own.
The riots erupted after the Commission for regulation of the country’s public services had agreed to increase public electricity tariffs by 16% at a meeting on June 17 to meet the request received from CJSC "Electric Networks of Armenia" Distribution Company, a subsidiary of RAO UES INTERNATIONAL. The measure which is to take effect on August 1 caused a wave of indignation among ordinary Armenians who assumed that the electricity price hike would automatically increase prices for essentials and many services. Armenia’s opposition forces used that public discontent to stage mass protests in central Yerevan.
The first protest rally against the planned rise in electricity tariffs took place in Yerevan on June 17. Similar protests were held in other major cities in Armenia on June 19. Eighteen people, including 11 policemen, were hurt in the rallies. Police detained 237 protesters who were set free soon. However, the demonstrators returned to the Marshal Bagramyan prospect almost immediately after their release to join a peaceful rally that has been on for seven days.
On June 27, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan said that the government was ready to cover the expenses linked to the rise in electricity tariffs until experts did finish the audit of the Electric Networks of Armenia operations. That led to a split in the protesters’ camp: half of the protesters accepted the president’s proposals and relocated to Independence Square outside the Yerevan Opera Theatre. The other half of radically-minded protesters who turned down the proposal pledged to stay on the Marshal Bagramyan prospect until all their demands were met.