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Armenian Opposition Holds Rally In Second-Largest City

The Armenian National Congress was able to announce the rally in Gyumri on local TV, something it couldn't do in Yerevan.
GYUMRI, Armenia -- Thousands of activists from Armenia's main opposition alliance held a public rally in the country's second-largest city, Gyumri, during which they denounced the policies of the current government and called for snap elections, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

A number of high-profile opposition leaders addressed the opposition supporters on May 24 in Gyumri's central square. They criticized the government on many issues.

Former Prime Minister Hrant Bagratian criticized government policy that he said has led to rising prices for natural gas. Many residents in Gyumri, which is known for its cold spring weather, still heat their homes with gas heaters.

Aram Sarkisian, the leader of the opposition Hanrapetutiun party, blamed the government for allowing a European Parliament resolution calling "for the withdrawal of Armenian forces from all occupied territories of Azerbaijan."

He called the resolution "very dangerous."

Former Deputy Prosecutor-General Gagik Jahangirian raised the issue of the fate of more than a dozen jailed opposition members. He said the activists remained resolute despite poor health conditions and "unfair isolation."

Aram Manukian, a senior member of the Armenian National Congress, an opposition party led by former President Levon Ter-Petrossian, said the choice of Gyumri for the rally was no accident.

Manukian said the city had provided the broadest response to the opposition's campaign in April against rising natural gas prices.

Manukian also called Armenia's northern province of Shirak "an islet of freedom." Three local television stations there ran announcements ahead of the planned opposition rally in Gyumri, Shirak's provincial capital.

Such televised publicity is something opposition rallies would not have received in the Armenian capital, Yerevan.