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Doctor 'Concerned' About Armenian Opposition Hunger Striker


Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian holds a news conference in Yerevan's Liberty Square on March 22.
YEREVAN -- A doctor monitoring Armenian opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian expressed concern about his health and urged him to stop refusing food as his antigovernment hunger strike enters its third week, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Tina Malkhasian, who works a state-run polyclinic in Yerevan, has examined Hovannisian's medical condition on a daily basis since he began the protest in Liberty Square on March 15.

"We are already concerned. My personal request to him is to stop," she told RFE/RL after making her latest medical check-up.

Malkhasian said she is worried about Hovannisian's fluctuating blood pressure and warned of serious damage to his liver, kidneys, and eyesight if he continues the action. "There are no signs [of such damage] yet, but the danger is growing," she said.

"He started drinking less water," added the doctor. "That's also dangerous. He needs to drink 2-3 liters of liquid a day."

Hovannisian said he will continue the hunger strike. "I will certainly continue daily meetings with the doctor," he said. "If my health problem becomes critical, I will reconsider [the protest.] But for the moment everything is stable."

"I will continue as long as my will allows," the leader of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party told RFE/RL.

Hovannisian began what he calls a "freedom fast" on March 15 in protest against the state of affairs in Armenia and the government's perceived failure to address problems facing the country. He has indicated that the holding of snap presidential and parliamentary elections is among "radical solutions" sought by him and his party.

Parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian ruled out fresh elections after visiting Hovannisian on March 25. He said the authorities are ready to discuss other Zharangutyun demands and hope he will end the hunger strike.

U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Marie Yovanovitch visited Hovannisian on March 28.