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Police disperse unauthorized opposition rally in central Yerevan

July 18, 21:23 UTC+3 YEREVAN
Dozens of people wanted to march through the Armenian capital’s streets to the location of the checkpoint service regiment where armed opposition members have been holding hostages for two days
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© EPA/HAYK BAGHDASARYAN/PHOTOLURE

YEREVAN, July 18 /TASS/. Police have dispersed an unsanctioned opposition rally on Yerevan’s pedestrian Svoboda (Freedom) Square outside the Yerevan Opera Theatre.

Dozens of people wanted to march through the Armenian capital’s streets to the location of the checkpoint service regiment where armed opposition members have been holding hostages for two days.

Opposition activist David Sanasaryan urged the protesters to march through the streets of Yerevan to the place of location of a police precinct and the checkpoint service regiment. "I am against any armed struggle but the people had started a cause and we need to join them," Sanasaryan said.

Yerevan’s Police Chief Major General Ashot Karapetyan warned Sanasaryan and his supporters that the rally and the march they were planning were unlawful. Later, the police dispersed the rally.

A group of armed men stormed a police precinct and checkpoint service regiment located in the central part of Movses Khorenatsi Street, one of Yerevan’s longest streets, which runs through the heart of the city to the Erebuni neighborhood. A local police department and a district court are located nearby. State troops and police have been blocking the street’s central part for a second day now.

Armenian authorities are actively negotiating the release of hostages held by armed attackers. The kidnappers seized a group of Yerevan policemen, including senior law enforcement officials, an Armenian police source told TASS earlier on Monday.

"The negotiations have so far not yielded any results. The authorities are trying to settle the hostage crisis through dialogue without the use of force. However, the hostage-takers are still refusing to release their captives, lay down arms and surrender to the authorities," the source said.

Lieutenant-General Unan Pogosyan, Armenia’s first deputy police chief, accused the opposition of an attempt to inflame tensions. "All this is being done to incite tensions and provoke confrontation and destabilize the situation even further," the general said. "Your ill-judged steps can only aggravate the situation," Pogosyan said in his address to the protesters.

At dawn, on July 17, about 30 members of Armenia’s radical opposition rammed into the gates of the Yerevan police regiment on a Kraz dump truck and opened fire. In the ensuing shootout, a deputy squad commander was killed, while some of the attackers and some policemen suffering injuries. In the chaos that followed, the assailants managed to abduct police officers and law enforcement officials who arrived at the scene for negotiations. Among those taken hostage are two senior police officials, Major General Vartan Yegiazaryan, Armenia’s deputy police chief, and Colonel Valery Osipyan, Yerevan’s deputy police chief.

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