YEREVAN, July 27. /TASS/. Protesters rallying against rising electricity prices launch a round-the-clock sit-in, ready to spend the coming night in Republic Square in the center of Armenia’s capital Yerevan, one of the leaders of the protest civic movement "Arise, Armenia" said late on Monday.
"We have opted against confrontation with police, but we will be now and then taking steps to exacerbate the situation," said Andreas Gukasyan. According to the activist, movement’s supporters are spreading leaflets in the cities of Gyumri, Vanadzor, Talin and Ashtarak, planning to arrive in Yerevan on July 30.
At the moment, some 12 people are sitting in that part of the square that was earlier suggested by police as the site of a rally, warning that they would not allow a sit-in in the central part of Republic Square. Police have cordoned off the scene.
Meanwhile, the central square is filled with local residents, some coming there to enjoy musical fountains after a hot day, others to sit in a fashionable street cafe in front of Marriott Hotel.
The riots in Armenia erupted in mid-June after the commission for regulation of the country’s public services had agreed to increase public electricity tariffs by 16% to meet the request received from CJSC "Electric Networks of Armenia" distribution company.
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.
The country’s opposition later took advantage of the situation and forced people into streets, what resulted in the dispersal of the Yerevan protests by police on June 23. As a result, 18 people, including 11 police officers, were hurt, and 237 people were detained but later released. However, protesters almost immediately resumed peace protests.
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 Freedom Square outside the Yerevan Opera Theatre; the other half of more radically minded protesters who rejected the government concession continued to stay on Marshal Bagramyan Avenue.
On June 29, protesters in a picket in Freedom Square made the decision to stop street protests, choosing "a new format of fight". On July 6, police cleared Marshal Bagramyan Avenue of barricades and protesters, after which protests moved to Freedom Square.