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Tense and Restrained Gyumri: “We Won’t Be the Same Toward Russians”

The numbers of Police forces are still quite noticeable in Gyumri and they regularly cause indignation among locals. The Russian military and their families have yet to return back to their daily lives, which has hurt the incomes of local night clubs, saunas, restaurants, stores, motels, taxi drivers, and sex workers.

On Wednesday, the adjacent streets to the Surb Nshan (St. Mark) Church were impassable around noon. Six-month old Seryozha’s funeral procession began here and ended 6 km away at a cemetery, where the 7th grave was added to the six Avetisyan family members' tombstones.


Police brought in from Yerevan have been distributed on various corners of the city and were surveillancing near Armenian and Russian state and military buildings, as well as near squares and churches, which are potential places for people to assembly.

Locals are restrained and mainly avoid speaking to journalists armed with video cameras. When men and women see groups of police officers or noisy police or military vehicles they curse loudly at them once in a while.

Albert, a 45-year old taxi driver, claimed that there are more plain clothed police officers and “KGB agents” than uniformed ones in the city. According to him, they are looking for another opportunity to beat up, arrest, and scare people, because the protest has not gone anywhere and the situation can become more aggravated.

“I have nothing against Russians. I have been a migrant worker there, plus I rely on them as a taxi driver. They also feel good here. They give bribes in Russia so they serve here, everything is cheap, its safe for their children, people are friendly, if something happens to someone on the street, people will help and take them home. Such things don’t exist in Russia,” said Albert.

Joining our conversation, Armen, a thiry-something, who drives his car as a taxi and delivers food products, said; “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but one thing is clear; the treatment of Russian soldiers and officers is not going to be the same. If I see a soldier piss drunk and passed out, I won’t go out of my way to offer a helping hand.”

A group of women near the Surb Yot Verk (St. Cardinal Sins) were loudly cursing at nearby police lining up and their leader as “Putin’s spawns.” Only one agreed to speak, nurse Lida; “They beat up our boys and it's still not enough for them. I don’t need anyone’s delayed apology. I know one thing; if the people stayed at home, there wouldn’t be any attention given to this incident. This should be a lesson for all of Armenia.”

Sako, a bartender at a karaoke club, said that the military base soldiers are their main and highest paying customers, and he is convinced that the Russian law enforcement bodies will try the crime’s suspects in a more just way. “It’s not like there are no maniacs in our nation. There is no Russian base in Talin or Kirovakan (Vanadzor), doesn't mean they live well there. We are unemployed, who is going to keep our homes. Without solving our problems, we are going after Russians.”

Ashot, a store owner, approached the Epress.am journalist after seeing a camera in his hand.

– Aren’t you tired? Stop tormenting these people.

– I’m a journalist.

– What difference does it make, a cop or a journalist? You remember Gyumri only once a year. When you leave, the cops will leave too. They work for the ruling authorities, so do you.

– What about you?

– I have nothing to lose. My daughter is in France, and my son in Moscow.

– What complaint do you have against me?

– Your television stations show everything in the wrong way. Turn off your camera, I’ll tell you. They all come and talk about Gyumri’s great dignity. You have nothing to do with our dignity. If you can, you should keep Yerevan’s dignity. The boys came out for a righteous cause and they turned them into criminals. When you leave, who is going to take care of them?