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Saturday, 1 March 2008

Police Disperse Protesters in Armenia (3)

*UPDATE 51 - 4 am local time
Reuters confirms previous news on decision to end protests (well, for now at least) by Levon Ter-Petrosyan and adhere to 'state of emergency' decree:
YEREVAN, March 2 (Reuters) - Most of the opposition supporters locked in a standoff with police in Armenia's capital ended their protest on Sunday but a group of around 60 refused to go home and set fire to abandoned police vehicles.
Most of the crowd, which numbered about 2,000, headed away from a square in the Armenian capital where they had been demonstrating after a message was read out from opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosyan urging them to go home.
Armenian leader Robert Kocharyan had declared a state of emergency late on Saturday and said he would send in the army to end the standoff with opposition supporters, who earlier in the day fought pitched battles with police.
In a message read out by one of his supporters, Ter-Petrosyan told the demonstrators to go home until the 20-day state of emergency had expired.
"I do not want any victims and clashes between police and innocent people. That is why I am asking you to leave," said the message from Ter-Petrosyan, who has been barred by police from leaving his home.
His supporters had been staging daily protests since a Feb. 19 election they said had been rigged to hand victory to Prime Minister Serzh Sarksyan, a close Kocharyan ally.
A Reuters reporter at the scene of the protest said about 60 people refused to go, with some accusing Ter-Petrosyan of being a traitor. They set fire to police jeeps left there following the clashes on Saturday.

*UPDATE 50 - 3.47 am local time
IMPORTANT! - PROTESTS END FOR NOW

The Armenian Observer reports that “eyewitness said, that Levon Ter-Petrossian had called from his house, where he was sitting under house arrest, and told the protesters to go away, warning, that tanks and military are coming and more serious accidents will happen if people do not obey. Ter-Petrossian has also said, that they will mobilize again in 15 days, after the state of emergency declared today by President Kocharian is lifted, and will continue “demanding justice”.

*UPDATE 49 - 3.13 am local time
BBC - Eyewitnesses describe bloodshed on the streets of Yerevan


*UPDATE 48 - 2.05 am local time
Recommended reading - NY Times article on situation in Armenia - "Protesters and Police Clash as Armenia Unrest Grows" Finally, a proper reporting from respected international media.

*UPDATE 47 - 1.57 am local time
Incumbent president Robert Kocharyan acknowledged that he decided to use army to 'solve' the internal crisis in Armenia (Regnum). IT IS NEVER ACCEPTABLE TO USE ARMY AGAINST ITS OWN PEOPLE, TO SETTLE INTERNAL POLITICAL CRISIS! IT IS A DIRECT WAY TO BLOODSHED.

In the meantime, Armenian parliament is discussing now the situation in an urgent session, ArmInfo reports.

*UPDATE 46 - 1.31 am local time - Ditord has just provided with the update: "By this time there’s around 1200-2000 people left at the main site of demonstration, rather few people remaining to protect the barricades." (However, estimates from other sources, provided by Ditord, state the number at around 5000-7000 and perhaps growing) There are also reports of looting going on at various sites.

*UPDATE 45
IMPORTANT - 12.37 AM LOCAL TIME - DITORD JUST TOLD ME THAT "There’s a crowd of around 10,000 people standing in front of the Myasnikyan statue - with opposition leaders speaking to them and claiming victory." "right now shooting is going on!" "BMPs and the real military is coming to disperse the rioters. right now shooting is going on!" Keep safe, Ditor, my heart is with you all!!!


*UPDATE 44
Panorama reports that the opposition rally in front of French embassy and Yerevan municipality was "forcibly dispersed by police."

*UPDATE 43
There are unconfirmed reports on numerous injured and at least one killed. However, nothing is confirmed yet. (According to ArmeniaNow, they have "learned from a doctor at Emergency Hospital N3 that at least two people have been killed – one civilian and one policeman – in the melee currently underway in Yerevan.")

*UPDATE 42
11pm local time - I just spoke with my relatives in Yerevan again. At this moment no shots can be heard. However, A1+ reports that clashes continue and number of burnt police cars can be seen everywhere in central Yerevan. So far, according to reports from Yerevan, police shot in the air.

*UPDATE 41
STATE OF EMERGENCY IS DECLARED IN ARMENIA FOR 20 DAYS, INCUMBENT PRESIDENT ROBERT KOCHARYAN DECLARED.

*UPDATE 40
Opposition Heritage party issued a statement condemning the use of 'agent provocateur' by authorities to escalate the situation and provoke clashes. They also comdemn the use of army and soldiers for dealing with internal political crisis. Heritage calls protesters to be vigilant and avoid provocations. (Lragir)

*UPDATE 39
YEREVAN, March 1 (Reuters) - Sporadic shooting rocked the centre of Armenia's capital on Saturday and tracer bullets flew across the dusky sky near where the opposition had been holding a rally, a Reuters eye-witness reported."I can hear sporadic shooting and see red and yellow tracers going into the skies," Reuters correspondent Hasmik Mkrtchyan reported from a vantage point near the scene."This is all happening near the place where the opposition rallied today," she said. "It's not clear who is shooting at whom."

*UPDATE 38
ArmInfo reports on clashes between protesters and police.

*UPDATE 37
BREAKING - 9.40 PM LOCAL TIME- I AM NOW SPEAKING WITH MY FAMILY. NOTHING IS CLEAR. LOTS OF FIRE AROUND. SMOKE. I CAN HERE SHOTS. PEOPLE CONVINCED THAT IT IS A PROVOCATION FROM AUTHORITIES TO JUSTIFY CURFEW AND CRACKDOWN ON PEOPLE.

LOTS OF SOLDIERS IN THE STREETS - WHETHER IT IS ARMY OR RIOT POLICE, IS NOT CLEAR.

THERE ARE SOME INDICATIONS THAT IT IS ARMY BUT STILL NO CONFIRMATION YET.

*UPDATE 36 - Provocation?
"At around 9:15 p.m. several “Molotov cocktails” were thrown from within the crowd of demonstrators near the Italian Embassy, over vehicles that the protestors had positioned earlier as barricades, and into police who have formed a perimeter on three sides of the crowd believed to be of several thousand.
In response, the Yerevan night has been brightened with what appears to be red tracer bullets, fired from a direction somewhere southwest of Republic Square.
A quick burst of automatic fire has been heard and a witness in the neighborhood says several shots of small caliber arms have been exchanged.
The projectile of the apparent tracer rounds were fired high into the sky, believed to be warning shots above where the crowd of demonstrators have stationed.
The projectile of the apparent tracer rounds were fired high into the sky, believed to be warning shots above where the crowd of demonstrators have stationed.
Witnesses on Zakiyan Street tell ArmeniaNow that in addition to the automatic fire, there has also been shots fired into the crowd (though it is unclear whether they were live rounds or "rubber" bullets) and that a melee has broken out with civilian protestors grabbing all available items to arm themselves.
Stretchers have been brought to the scene, as meanwhile police have closed off main streets linking the area to Mashtots Avenue, the city's main thoroughfare." (ArmeniaNow.com)

*UPDATE 35
Unconfirmed reports of tear gas used agains protesters. (Lragir)

*UPDATE 34 - 'state of emergency'?
Yerevan, March 1 (Reuters) - Armenia's president may declare state of emergency if his stand off with the opposition continues, but there is still hope to resolve the crisis peacefully, the foreign minister said on Saturday. "All (draft) decrees are ready to declare state of emergency," Vardan Oskanyan told a news conference.

"At this moment the president is holding serious discussions and meetings, and he is very keen to resolve this political matter by political means.

"Now it all depends on opposition (leaders). I feel we are living through a critical moment, and if we now take the right decision we (the nation) will win."

*UPDATE 33
press conference of incumbent president Robert Kocharyan is imminent (Regnum). However, as for the moment, it was decided that instead Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian will meet reporters (above).

*UPDATE 32
Levon Ter-Petrosyan election campaign team issued a statement demanding immediate release of Ter-Petrosyan from 'house arrest'. Only his presence in a rally could help calm people's emotions and prevent further escalation of the situation. Otherwise, Armenian authorities and personally incumbent president Robert Kocharyan and prime minister Serj Sargsyan will bear all responsibility for 'consequences'. (Lragir)

*UPDATE 31 - new photos from opposition rally currently underway in front of French embassy and Yerevan city municipality in Yerevan (source)



*UPDATE 30
MP form opposition Heritage party Armen Martirosyan was knifed during the rally, allegedly by 'agent provocateur'. He was taken to the hospital and in stable condition now. (RFE/RL)

*UPDATE 29
Previously detained opposition figure Aram Manukyan and photo-journalist Gagik Shamshyan has just been released. (Panorama)

*UPDATE 28
Lragir reports that previously detained former prime minister Hrant Bagratyan (supporter of Levon Ter-Petrosyan) has been released. Based on sources, ArmInfo reports that Bagratyan is participating now in a joint meeting of heads of diplomatic representations of European states in Yerevan.

*UPDATE 27
OSCE and Council of Europe condemn use of force in Armenia, detention of opposition supporters/leaders and appeal for post-election dialogue

*ArmInfo The OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Finnish Foreign Minister Ilkka Kanerva, condemns the use of force against peaceful demonstrators in Yerevan today

The press service of the OSCE quotes Kanerva issued this statement: "I urge the authorities to use maximum restraint. I am troubled that there are reports of casualties. I urge the authorities to release those detained, and I again call on the government and the opposition to engage in dialogue."

In meetings with Armenian officials in Yerevan on 26 February, the Minister had said the OSCE was ready to continue helping the country as it attempts to consolidate its democracy and address shortcomings noted by OSCE and other observers during the 19 February presidential election process.

"The OSCE considers dialogue central to stability. At this important stage in Armenia's development, everything should be done to avoid any escalation of tension," said Minister Kanerva, who also visited Azerbaijan and Georgia during his visit to the South Caucasus this week.

*ArmInfo Heads of diplomatic representations of European states in Armenia are holding joint meeting at Germany's Embassy to discuss the situation in the republic, ArmInfo correspondent got such information from the trustworthy sources

*ArmInfo - Council of Europe Secretary General Terry Davis is concerned about today's developments in Yerevan and condemns use of force to disperse protesters, as well as on-going detentions of opposition figures and reports of 'house arrest' of Levon Ter-Petrosyan

The press service of the CE reports Terry Davis issued this statement: "I am very concerned about reports of injuries during the security forces operation to disperse protesters in Yerevan this morning. If these reports are confirmed, all allegations of excessive force should be properly investigated. It is also vital to prevent any further violence,"

"I am also alarmed by the reports that the runner-up in the recent presidential elections, former President Lev Ter-Petrossian, has been put under house arrest. If this is true, he should be immediately released. If he is accused of committing a crime, he should be properly charged and prosecuted in a court of law like anyone else. In a democracy you cannot arbitrarily detain political opponents."

*UPDATE 26 - They want to establish in Armenia "1937" - Detentions, detentions
(video via A1+)



*UPDATE 25 - Evidence of State brutality
(photo via ArmeniaNow.com, video via A1+)




*for earlier news - HERE and HERE

3 comments:

reading_is_dangerous said...

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armen said...

thnx for the great coverage. you did a wonderful job today.

artmika said...

Thanks for reading my blog, Armen.

I really hope that this awakening of people will not go down and will be instrumental in making positive changes in Armenia towards establishing democracy. Want to finish today on a slightly positive note.