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YEREVAN, July 24. /TASS/. Armed persons who have been holding hostages in a seized police regiment in Yerevan for a week are refusing to lay down arms and surrender to the authorities, a source in the local law enforcement agencies told TASS on Sunday.
"The armed group is so far refusing to lay down arms and surrender. Nevertheless, negotiations continue," the source said.
Earlier, members of that group set ablaze a police minivan and pushed the burning car out of the regiment’s territory.
"Armenian police once again calls on the members of the armed group to refrain from actions that might endanger the lives and health of civilians or provoke escalation," the police said.
Vitaly Balasanyan, a mediator in the talks, said earlier that the police have promised to ignore this step and continue the talks until the armed group "peacefully surrenders arms."
Opposition activists say setting the minivan on fire was meant by the armed group to protest against cutting off electricity supplies to the regiment, communications problems and food shortages.
On the same day, another rally of about 1,000 protesters was held in the vicinity of the seized police regiment. No incidents were reported. The area around the regiment is cordoned off by the police.
During the small hours of July 17, armed extremists riding on a truck, rammed through the gates of a Yerevan police precinct, subsequently storming the premises. In the ensuing shootout, deputy commander of the regiment Colonel Artur Vanoyan was killed, while some of the assailants and some policemen sustained 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 kidnapped were two senior police officials, Major General Vartan Yegiazaryan, Armenia’s deputy police chief, and Colonel Valery Osipyan, Yerevan’s deputy police chief. They were released only on Saturday.
For several days, radical opposition members have been rallying near the police station, demanding that the authorities refrain from carrying out a military operation to free the hostages and neutralize the armed group.
On Wednesday night, police and protesters clashed leaving 51 people, with 29 police officers among them, injured. At dawn the police troops dispersed the crowd, detaining 136 opposition activists.