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Parents of Dead Soldiers Protesting in Yerevan Did Not Yield to Persuasion

More than a hundred people protested at 1 pm today outside the Armenian president’s residence in Yerevan. Relatives of soldiers killed in the army during a time of peace, supporters and human rights activists demanded an end to impunity in Armenia’s Armed Forces and asked that the Supreme Commander in Chief, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan come meet with them.

Also participating in today’s demonstration were Heritage Party MP Zaruhi Postanjyan, Helsinki Association for Human Rights President Mikael Danielyan, head of the Vanadzor Office of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Artur Sakunts as well as journalists who hadn’t come to report on the event, but to participate in it.

Note, the decision to protest outside the president’s residence was made the day before, after local activists heard of yet another non-combat death in Armenia’s Armed Forces.

During today’s protest, several dozen police officers tried in vain to block the gate of the residence. Police were even pushing protestors and trying to persuade them to “find another place,” but protestors broke through the cordon of police and approached the gates. About two dozen activists then sat down on the ground with their back to the building. Standing behind them was a row of activists holding posters facing the building. Later, protestors could be heard chanting “Murderers! Murderers!”

Vardan Ghukasyan, assistant to Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Gasparyan, approached the relatives of deceased soldiers and invited them to take part in a board meeting of the military prosecutor’s office currently underway, in which investigators responsible for various cases of soldier deaths were participating. However, the parents refused the officer, saying “We’ve already gone through all that,” and continued protesting outside.

Demonstrators were calling for Serzh Sargsyan to come meet with them; however, since that did not happen, a little over an hour after the protest began, demonstrators crossed the street, stopping traffic on Baghramyan Ave. for a few minutes. They then began to disperse, and organizers announced that the next protest would take place on Oct. 20 at 11 am outside the government building in Republic Square. From there, the group intends to march to the president’s residence.