Armenians protest electricity prices

Protest in Yerevan. [Topix, Armenia]

Several thousand people protested in the Armenian capital Yerevan on Monday (22 June) against a recent decision to raise electricity prices. Media reported police violence and arrests.

About 5,000 demonstrators marched to the presidential headquarters, but were stopped by riot police and began a sit-in protest on the road, blocking traffic.

The protest, which was organised by young activists with no affiliation to political parties, was triggered by the state regulating commission’s decision last week to increase the tariff on electricity by 17-22% from 1 August.

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That rise followed a request by the electricity distribution company for Armenia’s electricity network, a subsidiary of the Russian firm Inter RAO, which said the move followed the fall in Armenia’s currency, the dram.

Thecurrency was trading at around 473 to the dollar on Monday, compared with 407 drams a year earlier.

RFE/RL Armenian Service correspondents witnessed demonstrators being roughed up and chased, with some of them injured in the scuffle. Many demonstrators were also detained and taken to police stations in vehicles. Journalists were among those detained.

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Armenia, a former Soviet republic of 3.2 million people, has been badly hit by the economic downturn in Russia, which has hurt exports and much-needed remittances from Armenian workers based there.

Armenia is covered by the EU’s Eastern Partnership initiative, but instead of seeking association with the EU, opted to join the Russia-led Customs Union. The landlocked country’s economy is hobbled by the longstanding closure of its borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey over the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

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