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Thousands Rally In Yerevan

Gagik Tsarukian and senior members of his Prosperous Armenia Party applaud former President Levon Ter-Petrosian at an opposition rally in Yerevan on October 10.

Thousands have taken to the streets of the Armenian capital for an anti-government protest.

Demonstrators in Yerevan on October 10 demanded the resignation of the government of President Serzh Sarkisian.

According to reports, protesters blame the government for the country's slow economic growth and ongoing graft.

They also are angry with Sarkisian's decision to join a Russian-led economic bloc, effectively turning the country away from the European Union.

Sarkisian signed an agreement to join the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) earlier on October 10 in Minsk.

According to AP, protesters also oppose a proposed change to the constitution backed by Sarkisian that would make the prime minister the government's top official.

Opponents suspect Sarkisian is pushing the change in order to run for that job when his second and final presidential term ends in 2018, effectively keeping him in charge.

The protest on Yerevan's central Freedom Square was organized by the country's three main opposition parties -- Prosperous Armenia, Heritage, and the Armenian National Congress.

Addressing the crowd -- estimated at between 10,000 and 14,000 -- was former president and the leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress, Levon Ter-Petrosian.

He said the "time has come to get rid of our criminal and corrupt government."

"Our authorities had enough time to improve living standards in Armenia, but have so far failed," 34-year-old protester, Anna Saroyan, told AFP. "Now they must go."

The leader of the opposition Heritage party, Raffi Ovannisian, accused Sarkisian of "ignoring the people's will," by signing the agreement to join the EEU on the sidelines of a CIS summit in the Belarus capital.

The Caucasus nation of some 3 million is now set to join Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan in the economic bloc when it comes into force on January 1, 2015.

The project builds on the existing Customs Union between Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.

Landlocked Armenia, which is heavily reliant on its ties to Russia, ditched plans last year to sign an agreement on closer trade and diplomatic ties with the European Union.

With reporting by AFP, AP and Interfax
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