Mass Protests as Putin Visits Yerevan

Hundreds of people in Yerevan protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—At least 110 people were detained in Yerevan on Monday as riot police clashed with hundreds of anti-government activists protesting against Russia’s visiting President Vladimir Putin and Armenia’s plans to join a Russian-led customs union.

The mostly young protesters waving Armenian national flags and holding posters denouncing Putin and President Serzh Sarkisian marched through the city center to demand that Armenia stay away from the union. They ignored police warnings that the rally was not sanctioned by the municipal authorities.

The crowd chanted “Free, independent Armenia,” “Putin, go home,” “Serzhik, go away” it made its way to the Prime Minister’s Office in Yerevan’s Republic Square. Scores of riot police blocked the protesters’ way moments later, after the latter tried to march towards the presidential palace located more than a kilometer away.

Security forces made first arrests after some of the activists apparently tried to break through a police cordon set up on a major street in downtown Yerevan. The demonstrators, among them several leading members of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, then turned back and rushed to another street only to be again blocked by rows of lightly equipped riot police. More of them were detained on the spot.

The detentions reportedly continued in the following hours. Organizers of the protest spoke of dozens of their comrades being taken to police stations. Among them were Levon Barseghian, a veteran civic activist, Davit Sanasarian, a senior Zharangutyun figures, as well as two journalists.

A police statement issued later in the day put the total number of detainees at 110. It accused them of defying “police orders defined by the law.” It was not immediately clear if any of the activists risked criminal charges.

The police statement defended the overall use of force, saying that the protesters disrupted traffic and engaged in other “manifestations of illegal conduct.”

Leaders of the protest denied any wrongdoing and demanded the immediate release of all detainees. “The authorities continue to resort to abuses against their citizens,” charged Artur Sakunts, a prominent human rights campaigner.

The demonstration attended by around 1,000 people marked the biggest expression of public protest yet against President Sarkisian’s controversial decision to make Armenia part of the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Its participants regard the expansion of the Russian-dominated bloc as a prelude to the restoration of the Soviet Union allegedly sought by Putin. They reject government assurances that membership in the union poses no threat to Armenia’s independence and is vital for its national security.

“Our national security today is democracy and human rights,” Zaruhi Postanjian, a parliament deputy from Zharangutyun, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “If they are not respected in Armenia, then whose security are we going to ensure?”

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22 Comments

  1. Putin said:

    By “mass protest”, do you mean 500 to 1000 people in a country of 3+ million? So.much.mass.

  2. Alex Postallian said:

    FIRST,GET THE CROOKS,OUT OF ARMENIA,OLIGARGHES,OR WHATEVER YOU CALL THEM…..THEY MUST BE CLOSETED turks,WHO DONT CARE ABOUT THE COUNTRY…….LIE,CHEAT,STEAL,NO INTEGRITY,JUST LIKETHE jerky turkeys….THEY COULDNT BE ARMENIANS…

    • GeorgeMardig said:

      Don’t be hard on Armenians, after so many years under Soviet rule, they are not as bad as described, they already improved from last year’s score, EU countries wih their years of Democracy, .”LIE,CHEAT,STEAL,NO INTEGRITY,JUST LIKETHE jerky turkeys” go check the annual list of corruption index 2013, Greece,Spain, Italy, Portugal, the list goes on

  3. Hratch said:

    We have no choice but to accept Russian hegemony. We can not protect ourselves from either physical or economical trauma. We need a big brother to watch over us. It’s the price we must pay to stay alive.

  4. Armanen said:

    Misguided and easily manipulated individuals led by the miscreant known as Zara Postanjian, what else can we expect? She is a rabble rouser and a populist no qualms about it.

  5. GB said:

    Those protesters must know that EU and NATO Led US forces have 24 military bases in Turkey, including Incirlikj Air Base, a land that was stolen from Armenians, after 1915 Genocide…Armenia’s security is more important than EU fake paperwork… West never blame or acknowledge Armenian Genocide “rightfully”, where Obama and White House covering the truth of AG with Turkish blood colored flag!

  6. Arto2 said:

    The population of Yerevan is about 1.1 million. A total turnout of 1000 protesters makes only 0.09% of the population. Hardly what one would call a “Mass Protest” as the heading of your article implies. Nice try Asbarez.

  7. GeorgeMardig said:

    Turkey and Armenia’s enemies are working hard to destabilize Armenia, had not been for Russia the US and the West would have donated today’s Armenia to Turkey as a Ramadan gift even though Turkey betrayed them in every occasion, Over 20 years the West and the US could not make Turkey lift the blockade against all Int’l laws. People should open their eyes and stop this craze.

  8. zograp said:

    հերիք չէ… Գիտենք, որ տարածաշրջանի երկրներից մի քանիսը պատրաստ են հոշոտել Հայաստանը, եթե իմանան, որ Ռուսաստանը մեր կողքին չէ…: Մի հատ մտածեք էլի, որ օրը Պուտինը ձեռքը քաշեց հայերի գլխից՝ կորած ենք: Բայց դրանից ավելի վատ բան կա՝ ձեռք քաշելու փոխարեն կարող է և մի լավ հյութալի ապտակ հասցնել մեզ: Հավատացեք, մեզ “ճզմելը” իր համար 1 օրվա հարց է: Եվ եթե չեք ուզում Ձեր պապերի պահած երկիրը հավասարեցնեք հողի՝ սուս ու փուս տեղներդ վեր ընկեք ու ձեր գլխից մեծ քայլեր մի արեք: Հայրենասերներիս տեսեք, ակտիվիստ են ձևանում՝ առանց գաղափար հետապնդելու: Վաղը մյուս օր շատ անմեղ մարդիկ կտուժեն ձեր 20 հոգանոց, ինչ որ շահ հետապնդողների խելքից: Ուշքի եկեք!!!!

  9. Sarkis said:

    I find it absolutely amazing that Armenians protest a man like Putin, but praise without end a clown like France’s President Nickolas Sarkozy. Isn’t Putin the man who essentially single-handedly saved the Armenian community in Syria from the same genocidal fate the grandparents of the Syrian-Armenians suffered at the hands of the turks in 1915, this time from being perpetrated by American/EU/turkish/israeli backed terrorists who have been kidnapping Syrian-Armenians and bombing Armenian schools, community centers, and churches in Syria? Didn’t Putin save all of Syria from a western-backed terrorist campaign that more than likely would have fanned flames in the region and endanger the Armenians of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iran and even the few Armenians that remain in Iraq? Doesn’t Putin look the other way as hundreds of thousands of illegal Armenian immigrants come to Russia to work and then send billions and billions of dollars back to Armenia in remittances. Doesn’t Putin’s Russia unconditionally back Armenia diplomatically whether in the UN against azeri-sponsored resolutions against Artsakh, or in the OSCE Minsk Group against azeri and western attempts to give an active role to turkey in the peace negotiations process? Didn’t Putin just make a very lengthy and respectful visit to the Genocide monument, without having to make up excuses to please the turks like “it was only a personal visit” as Hillary Clinton did when she was in Armenia? Isn’t the only reason Armenia can keep up with azerbaijan’s oil-wealth fueled arms race because Putin gives Armenia all types of modern weapons, including upgraded T-72 and T-80 tanks, modernized armored personnel carriers including BMP-2s, multiple S-300 anti-aircraft systems (the kind Iran and Syria have been begging Russia for) as well as TOR and BUK anti-aircraft weapons, SMERCH and Urugan and Grad artillery systems, Mi-24 and Mi-17 helicopters, multiple types of anti-tank guns, SCUD-B and TOCHKA-U ballistic missiles, several Ilyushin-76 transport aircraft, and many other weapons FOR FREE?? Not to mention generous Russian investments in the ArmenAl aluminum factory, Armenian banks, telecoms, energy production and distribution and of course Armenia’s nuclear power plants?

    I noticed from several photographs that some of the anti-Putin protestors were carrying the black Anarchist flag, some were carrying the multi-colored rainbow flags of homosexuality, some looked like college students rudely waiving their middle fingers, and many had signs written in English. And there was a massive Ukrainian flag implying support for the pro-EU and pro-NATO (remember NATO = turkey as far as Armenian security is concerned) rioters looting and destroying Kiev in the past few days. These are dangerous international intrigues which are harmful to Armenian security and should not be tolerated by the citizens of Yerevan.

    • Sarkis said:

      For anyone interested, here is a five minute clip of Presidents Putin and Sargsyan visiting the Armenian Genocide Memorial at Tsitsernakaberda few days ago. I know some websites don’t allow posting links but I hope the staff at Asbarez will make an exception for this one:

      Վլադիմիր Պուտինը Ծիծեռնակաբերդում հարգեց 1915թ.-ի Հայոց ցեղասպանության անմեղ զոհերի հիշատակը

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xA8qVuMLU90

  10. Shahe said:

    I recommend Zharangutyun reevaluates its own failing non-cooperative poor diplomacy and directives with its thousand irregular protesters and demonstrators, and resort to constructive and intelligent long-range and focused strategy. Skirmishes of this sort diminishes the raison-d’etre of Zharangutyun as a constructive opposition party. The internationally highly lauded president does not take heed of nor need low quality advice and meaningless moves of emotional nature. For centuries Armenia was looking forth to see a leading dynamic visionary president with balanced decisions in a turbulent global political background. Go ahead and cooperate to support the government to achieve higher goals. Never in our history of millenniums have we learned how to govern our country. The Soviet regime of seventy years was a crash course school of infrastructure country governance despite all odds. Thank God it did not last for another millennium. Irregularity on all fronts is not welcome yet it is part of the process of purification that takes time and visionary leaders to engage into and involve in the transition. The president is one of them. God bless him, his government and his supporters.

  11. Chris said:

    I cannot take the anti current government groups seriously. Most of them live outside the country and therefore cannot see what is actually beneficial for Armenia. Also most of these morons support the price of fecal matter called derbedrosian and we all know what a burro liana leader it was.

  12. jack said:

    YOU LIKE IT OR NOT WE HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO STAY WITH RUSSIA ,IF THE AZERI WAR BREAK OUT THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES ,WILL COME TO OUR AIDS .THE EUROPEANS ARE THE MOST UNRELIABLE PEOPLE ,ARMENIAN NATION HAS NOTHING BUT A BAD TASTE IN THEIR MOUTH FROM THEM

  13. John Ahmaranian said:

    I respect everybody’s opinion, but I also have my own opinion.
    Russia is the best among the worse enemies. I remember when the Armenians in Artsakh declared independence, The Turkish Army was ready, with 1,000 tanks, to invade Armenia. President Yeltsin threatened Ankara with his famous warning: Invading Armenia means a war declaration against Russia.

    The protesters said, “We need our human rights”. True ! But we need first of all our national security.
    We have a saying, “The Turk is ready to HUM HUM MEZ OUDEH. I personally admire the Armenian Government FOREIGN policy. We are our in good term with EU, the United States, Iran, the Arabs and the Russians. For the last 20 years we have kept and we must keep this balance. Azerbaijan and Georgia know very well the price they have paid when they wanted to distant themselves from Russia. We don’t want Serj Sarkissian to become Gamsakhurdia, Saashkevili or Aliev the father.

  14. Kemal Ozsoy said:

    Finally, some smart Armenians who deserve my respect. Putin is nothing more then a Russian equivalent of Erdogan in my opinion. Long live Democracy movements in Turkey and Armenia. We should use these opportunities to actually set up normalization by 2015.

    • Sarkis said:

      Of course self-destructive Armenians are the only ones who are worthy of your “respect”. I see you are following Napoleon’s maxim “never interrupt your enemy as he makes a mistake”. Please go back to supporting terrorists on the Syrian border or servicing NATO servicemen in turkey or whatever it is that you normally do.

  15. Petrushka said:

    Those protesting against Putin visit are discombobulated , misguided trouble makers. Should Russia decline looking positively toward Armenia these protesters will disappear in Turkish jails overnight.

  16. Gurgen said:

    If for any reason Russia pulled out of Armenia and said to us “your on your own” these delusional protesters would scatter to the four corners of the world once more as soon as Turks come knocking on the door.

  17. Sassoon Kosian said:

    I can’t believe there are so many Diaspora Armenians who have a slave’s mindset. Those protesters are demanding their right to self govern, and are protesting against the Armenian criminal regime trying to make Armenia nothing more than a Russian province. Those young people are the future of Armenia and they deserve respect not bashing. Russia has not been and is not the savior of Armenia. Remember just recently Putin sold deadly weapons to Azerbaijan… remember that? Now those of you who tell others to wake up, it’s you who need to wake up. Nobody is against having an alliance with Russia, but alliance is one thing and handing your sovereignity to a megalomaniac like Putin a different thing altogether. Nobody respects a doormat, and that’s where the unelected government of Armenia is heading towards.

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