Tuesday, 3 December 2013

#PUTinOUT - protesters in Armenia say “Putin, you are not welcome”, denounce ruling regime

Russian president Putin's visit in Armenia happened on a day when Soviets took over control of independent first Republic of Armenia (2 December 1920). Symbolic, eh? Loss of the independence a century ago, the effective loss of the independence now, after Armenia ruling regime ditched the EU integration in favour of Russia-led customs union. The election motto of Armenia’s ruling republican party was “forward, Armenia”. In practice, they have been doing whatever possible and impossible to turn Armenia steadily into a backwards direction.

*Source: Photolure

People took to the streets in Yerevan to say “Putin, you are not welcome in Armenia”, or using Twitter language - #PUTinOUT. They were out in the streets to denounce ruling regime.

*source: shushanblansh

A very diverse “Sovereign Armenia Initiative Group", including a range from ultra-nationalist, far right to very liberal groups and individuals was established on Facebook, with the aim to hold protest actions against Russian president Putin’s visit to Armenia and against decision by Armenia’s ruling regime to join the Russia-led customs union. In a statement, the Initiative says “Armenians are protesting their government’s September 3rd decision to join the Russian-led Customs Union and pull back from the EU Association Agreement”. The statement then continues: “If implemented, the Russian-lead Customs Union, as the latest attempt by Putin to reestablish formal control of former soviet states, would hand over significant portions of Armenian sovereignty to a primarily Russian controlled and unaccountable commission. As such, membership in this union is unconstitutional and illegal. Armenia’s decision to join the Customs Union was a direct result of Russian pressure unbefitting 21st century diplomacy, and more inline with archaic imperial ambitions. Moreover President Serzh Sargsyan, having come to power through fraudulent elections, lacks the legitimacy to make such a decision or to speak on behalf of the Armenian people or in the name of Armenian national interest.”

Reflecting massive protests of revolutionary scale in Ukraine, the Armenian Initiative expressed solidarity with the Ukrainian protesters: “As a sign of solidarity and taking inspiration from the Ukrainian people, Armenians will be carrying Ukrainian flags and expressing their support for their compatriots in Ukraine.” Quite a few of Armenian and Ukrainian flags were later confiscated by police.

Around 1000 people participated in a protest action that was unprecedented for Armenia, considering traditional pro-Russia stance and huge pro-Russia propaganda. A massive detention of estimated 110 protesters followed (most if not all of them were later released). This was truly a police state in progress in Armenia and an indication of things to come with the putinisation of Armenia.

*source: Photolure

The protest action started early in the morning when activists put up large signs in different Yerevan locations denouncing ruling regime and Russia’s president visit. Several activists were detained and later released. Detentions, intimidation followed throughout the day.

“#PUTinOUT”, “Russia is for sad people”, “No to putinism”, “Serj has no people’s mandate”, “Stop RUSSIA” (with “SS” written in red)… these are just few of numerous posters hold by protesters.

*source: @nkayserian

It was unprecedented on so many levels. In what was a historic first time ever in Armenia, a rainbow flag was used during a protest action.

*source: @nkayserian

This resulted in a brief scuffle, when ultranationalist participants of the march (from Hayazn group) attacked and harassed activists holding a rainbow flag. For more details - see Unzipped: Gay Armenia - Historic first: Armenia activist holds rainbow flag during #PUTinOUT protest action in Yerevan

Sadly, few days ago, a well known Soviet dissident Natalya Gorbanevskaya passed away. She famously organised a protest action against Soviets military intervention into Czechoslovakia in 1968: “For your and our freedom”. Simple words, and so deep in meaning, and so telling. Current as ever. Revolution in Ukraine. Protests in Armenia. "За вашу и нашу свободу”.

P.S. As news on protest action kept coming, another news broke that ArmRosGazprom is losing the “Arm” part, with Gazprom taking over 100% of the ownership.