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Armenia Crisis: Protesters Bring Cities To Standstill After Vote

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Tens of thousands of supporters of Armenia’s protest leader, Nikol Pashinyan, have responded to his call for civil disobedience, blocking key roads and government buildings.

He has led weeks of anti-government protests that forced Serzh Sargsyan to resign after 10 years in power.

Mr Pashinyan called for a general strike after ruling party MPs refused to back him as interim prime minister.

Protests broke out across the capital Yerevan and other main cities.

Cars and lorries blocked intersections in the capital, while demonstrators stopped traffic on the route to the main airport. Tourists had to abandon vehicles and carry their luggage. Metro stations in Yerevan were closed as part of the campaign of disobedience.

Mr Sargsyan left the presidency last month after 10 years in power and was then elected prime minister by a parliament controlled by his Republican party. Under a 2015 referendum marred by irregularities, Armenia shifted powers from the president to parliament.

Mr Sargsyan’s move was seen by critics as a way of clinging to office.

Demonstrators poured on to the streets of Yerevan after Mr Pashinyan addressed crowds on Tuesday night in Republic Square, close to parliament.

He told the BBC on Wednesday that protesters were fighting for their own rights and dignity. “I want to be clear, it isn’t a fight for Nikol Pashinyan becoming prime minister, it’s a fight for human rights, for democracy, for rule of law and that is why our people aren’t tired and won’t be tired.”

Entrances to several ministry buildings in Yerevan were blockaded and rail services were disrupted. Trains were not running between Yerevan and the second city, Gyumri, and checkpoints near the Georgian border were affected.

There was further disruption in Gyumri itself and in the third city Vanadzor, where a large crowd of protesters blockaded the mayor’s office and other civic buildings. Three thousand workers from a local sewing factory walked out and cut off some of Vanadzor’s biggest roads, reports said.

During the day Mr Pashinyan posted a message on social media, urging protesters to halt disruption at the airport, while other opposition politicians appealed to people not to impede emergency services. Police tried to move protesters off the roads but there was no sign of violence.

In his Tuesday speech, Mr Pashinyan had called on police to join the protests.

 



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