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Access To Yerevan Restricted Ahead Of Election-Day Rally

Cars and minibuses stopped on the route into Yerevan on May 31
Cars and minibuses stopped on the route into Yerevan on May 31
GYUMRI, Armenia -- Authorities in Armenia made travel to Yerevan from other parts of the country by public transport nearly impossible ahead of an opposition rally that took place in the capital late on May 31, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported.

The demonstration was planned to coincide with balloting in municipal elections in the capital, which the ruling Republican Party of Armenia swept in voting that opponents quickly denounced as fraudulent.

In what critics say has become a pattern before politically charged events, police set up roadblocks on highways leading to Yerevan and stopped buses, minibuses, and cars. One woman told RFE/RL that police had confiscated her car keys.

An RFE/RL correspondent witnessed passengers being forced to get out of a minibus several kilometers north of the city. "I don't know how to get to the city," one of the unfortunate passengers complained.

People said they did not know why they were being forced off of the buses but pledged to reach their destination "one way or another."

Police said they were searching for weapons and drugs as part of a special operation ordered by national police chief Alik Sargsian and denied restricting transportation to Yerevan ahead of the the National Congress rally.

Police checkpoints could also be seen on a highway connecting Yerevan to Armenia's second-largest city, Gyumri.