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Travel To Armenian Capital Restricted Ahead Of Opposition Rally

Police monitor traffic on a highway south of Yerevan.
Public transport between Yerevan and nearby regions ground to a halt today ahead of a rally by the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Bus stations in small towns close to the capital stood idle in the morning and early afternoon, leaving scores of local commuters stranded. Many of them work or study in Yerevan.

"I'm going to visit a doctor but there is no transport and I don't know how I will go there," said a woman waiting at the bus station in Echmiadzin.

"I decided to go to Yerevan at 10 a.m. for the rally," another local resident told RFE/RL. "There have been no minibuses here at the bus station since 10 a.m. I'm still waiting." He said he cannot afford a taxi.

An official at the bus station confirmed that all buses and minibuses were deliberately pulled out of service for the day. He refused to explain why.

"They say they closed the roads because there will be a rally in Yerevan," said a man standing nearby.

A similar picture could be observed in the nearby towns of Masis and Artashat. Police officers were present at the bus stations, and even taxis were hard to find.

Police patrols were also deployed on major roads leading to Yerevan. One patrol commander said that it was part of a special police operation aimed at tracking down stolen cars. Another officer claimed police are looking for weapons.

Law enforcement officials gave similar reasons for their heightened presence on the highways ahead of rallies held by the opposition HAK in the past. Both they and government officials denied opposition claims that the authorities are trying to keep many Armenians from joining antigovernment demonstrators in Yerevan.

The planned demonstration is to mark the third anniversary of unrest following the disputed 2008 presidential election. Those protests left 10 people dead.

There was no apparent disruption today in transport communication between the capital and other parts of the country, including to the second-largest city of Gyumri.