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YEREVAN, June 30 /TASS/. The Armenian government will cover the electricity price rise by off-budget means until an independent audit of the Electricity Network of Armenia distribution company is completed, Armenian Prime Minister Ovik Abramyan said on Tuesday.
"Electricity tariff hikes will not be a burden on the state budget. They will be compensated from off-budget sources," Abramyan said after the "Economic Agenda-2015" news conference on Tuesday. He added that the concrete sources of off-budget funding would be announced later.
The riots in Armenia erupted after the State Regulatory Commission had agreed to raise 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 released soon but failed to break up the protest. 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 suspend the hike temporarily and cover the price rise out of state funds rather than increase customers’ bill until experts did not complete the audit of the Electric Networks of Armenia distribution company. That split the protesters’ camp in two: those who accepted the government’s proposal moved to the Freedom Square outside the Yerevan Opera Theatre; the other half of more radically minded protesters who rejected the government concession continued to stay on the Marshal Bagramyan avenue.