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Armenian Protest Turns Violent: 25 Police, 20 Others Wounded

  • RFE/RL's Armenian Service

YEREVAN -- Hundreds of Armenian protesters sympathetic to an armed opposition group holding hostages at a district police headquarters in Yerevan clashed with police on July 20 after their demand to provide food to the gunmen went unheeded by authorities.

Demonstrators pelted a heavy cordon of riot police with rocks, after which police used stun grenades to disperse the crowd. A group of officers reportedly detached from the rest and chased some demonstrators.

Armenia's Health Ministry said 45 people were hospitalized with wounds, including 25 police officers.

At least 13 people were taken to Yerevan’s Grigor Lusavorich hospital. Doctors there said 11 of them were police officers and that two policemen suffered particularly serious injuries.

TASS reported that the chairman of the Socialist Party of Armenia, Movses Shaverdian, received serious injuries, including a bleeding wound on the head. The relatives of the 64-year-old politician said he was undergoing medical tests.

READ MORE: What Is Armenia's 'Founding Parliament' Movement?

The protest continued into the early hours of July 21 as some 2,000 protesters built barricades in front of the cordons of baton-wielding riot police in flak jackets and helmets.

An RFE/RL Armenian Service correspondent at the scene reported seeing bloodstains on the asphalt. One elderly man with blood on his face said he had been struck by police batons, and at least three ambulances were seen speeding to the scene.

The gunmen took over the Erebuni police station at dawn on July 17, killing one police officer and wounding six other people, and prompting a standoff with police. They continue to hold four police officers hostage.

Opposition leader Zhirayr Sefilian (file photo)

Opposition leader Zhirayr Sefilian (file photo)

The gunmen are demanding the release of Zhirayr Sefilian, the leader of the Founding Parliament opposition movement, who was arrested last month on charges of illegal acquisition and possession of weapons.

They also want President Serzh Sarkisian to step down.

Authorities have rejected the group's demands and say negotiations are under way with the gunmen for their surrender.

Armenia's deputy police chief, Samvel Hovhannisian, told RFE/RL that "numerous" police officers have been injured in the July 20 clashes near the police station.

LIVE FEED: Clashes At Yerevan Police Station

Meanwhile, tensions were also reported in another part of the besieged area.

Nikol Pashinian, an opposition lawmaker who has been acting as a mediator in negotiations between police and the armed group on issues such as food, returned to the scene on July 20 and tried to pacify the situation by talking with both police and protesters.

The Founding Parliament is sharply critical of the way the government has dealt with the long-running conflict in Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory that both Armenia and Azerbaijan claim.

The group frequently stages street protests in Yerevan demanding Sarkisian's resignation.

With reporting by AFP and TASS
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