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YEREVAN, July 26 /TASS/. Armenia’s radical opposition on Tuesday turned down a police demand to relocate the rallies’ venue to a different place away from a police unit, which has been under control of armed opposition radicals for ten days. "We are not going to change the venue for our rallies," Alek Yenigomshyan, one of the opposition movement’s coordinators, told TASS.
Yenigomshyan said the authorities had been frightened by yesterday’s mass rally and an opposition march. They think it would be safer to relocate the venue for the rallies, the opposition activist said. He believes that people’s presence at the rally is the main guarantee that the authorities will not crack down on the armed attackers who seized the police station.
At dawn, on July 17, about 30 armed attackers connected to Armenia’s radical opposition rammed into the gates of a Yerevan police station driving a Kraz dump truck and opened fire. In the ensuing shootout, a deputy squad commander was killed, with some policemen and attackers suffering injuries. In the chaos that followed, the assailants managed to abduct on-duty cops and top police brass 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.
"If anything happens here and blood is spilled, the Armenian authorities will be to blame," Yenigomshyan said. He believes that clashes could erupt in Yerevan only as a public response to police actions.
Touching upon negotiations between the authorities and the armed hostage-takers, Yenigomshyan accused the authorities of imitating the negotiations pretending to be in talks with the armed opposition members. They do not observe the agreements reached, Yenigomshyan said. He called on the people of Yerevan and all Armenians, including representatives of the Armenian Diaspora abroad, to take to the streets. "There are many of us today. There will be more of us tomorrow and the day after tomorrow," the opposition activist said.
The protesters in Yerevan are holding the photos of the armed group’s members and are changing their names from time to time.
Armenian police have detained the accomplices of gunmen who have been holding a Yerevan police precinct hostage for eight days and are still refusing to surrender, Armenia’s National Security Service said on Monday.
"More co-conspirators have been arrested as part of a criminal investigation into the police station’s seizure. Another (criminal) group that helped the gunmen, has been detained," Armenia’s National Security Service said.
According to the latest reports, the gunmen that hijacked the truck had threatened to kill the vehicle’s owner and his family. Having carjacked the truck, they used it to storm the police station. "Some assailants prodded their accomplices outside to hurl Molotov cocktails in order to break the encirclement and snatch weapons from the police squad," the National Security Service said.
"Other individuals who were genuinely intent on helping this lawless gang are currently in police custody. Law enforcement officials are employing all possible tactics, legal ones included, to quash and prevent any further criminal activity," Armenia’s National Security Service stressed.
The National Security Service still believes it is possible to end the hostage standoff through dialogue and negotiations. "It has called on the armed extremists to immediately cease their lawlessness and violence, which endanger peoples’ lives and well-being and threats against property. They should voluntarily lay down arms and surrender to the authorities without resistance. There is little time left to do that but there still is time," the Armenian National Security Service said.
Under Armenian laws, hostage-takers who give up their demands, voluntarily release hostages and surrender to the authorities are exempt from criminal prosecution if their actions do not contain the element of other crimes.
The Armenian police are refuting the absurd information, which appears in the Internet on and off.