Protest Significantly Grows as its Leaders are Arrested
Three members of parliament detained by police
YEREVAN—Dramatic events on Sunday, punctuated by Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian walking out of a meeting with protest organizer Nikol Pashinyan and his subsequent arrest along with two other parliament members, prompted the undeterred population to turn out in droves at a rally Sunday night at Republic Square where calls for Sarkisian’s resignation continued as the popular protests entered their 10th day.
Soon after the failed meeting between Sarkisian and Pashinyan collapsed Sunday morning at the Marriot Hotel, the opposition leader began a march in the streets of Yerevan toward the Erebuni neighborhood, where masked policemen grabbed Pashinyan and took him to detention. Later in the day, Pashinyan’s Yelk bloc colleagues Ararat Mirzoyan and Sassoun Mikaelyan were also detained. The fate of the three parliament members will be decided by their legislative colleagues, who may vote to file official charged and strip them of their parliamentary immunity.
The arrest of the protest organizers, coupled with what can be characterized as Sarkisian’s disregard toward the concerns of the protesters, gave way to a surge in the protest attendance, with some media outlets placing the number at 70,000.
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Meanwhile, throughout the day, police clashed with protesters and in some instances deployed stun grenades, arresting several people. According to organizers some 300 people were behind bars as of Sunday night.
President Armen Sarkissian, who on Saturday went to Republic Square and by walking through the crowds met with Pashinyan, released a statement Sunday after the failed Sarkisian-Pashinyan meeting, lamenting the collapse of the meeting and urging a return to stability.
“The ongoing developments in our country have reached a dangerous point, which can lead to irreversible consequences,” said President Sarkissian in his statement. “Unfortunately, despite an earlier agreement, the negotiations were interrupted, when they might have led to de-escalating the situation.”
The president warned that the continuing protests “may undermine the country’s stability,” expressing hope for further dialogue.
“Thus, I call on all our citizens and our compatriots in the Diaspora to refrain from attempts of escalating the situation and to display restraint. The security of Armenia and Artsakh must not be jeopardized,” added Sarkissian.
The president also called on the Armenian people to stand united on the eve of April 24, the annual commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. He urged all Armenians to, on April 24,
“display nationwide, in both Armenia and Diaspora, maximum restraint for the world to see, and commemorate the memory of our holy martyrs united and collectively.”
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation Supreme Council of Armenia in a statement renewed its calls for political dialogue saying there can be “no winners or losers” since the interests of the people far outweigh any side claiming victory.
The ARF Youth Organization of Armenia and the ARF Nikol Aghbalian Student Association announced that they will hold the annual procession of torches to Dzidzernagapert, which traditionally takes place on the evening of April 23, will take place as planned at 7 p.m.
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