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RA Government to Subsidize Cost of Increased Electricity Rates “at the Expense of Taxpayers”

The government of the Republic of Armenia will subsidize the cost of electricity rate hike, leaving the tariff unchanged for consumers until the international audit of the national electricity distribution company “Electric Networks of Armenia” is completed, RA president Serzh Sargsyan announced on Saturday, June 27.

Sargsyan proposed to choose an experienced and prestigious international consulting group to conduct an audit which would find out whether the hike in prices was justified, and whether not increasing the tariffs would affect the energy system negatively.

“If the findings of the audit justify the price hike, then the consumers will pay the cost with no grounds for suspicion. If the findings confirm the increase was unreasonable, then the government will take measures to hold negligent officials accountable,” the president said.

Sargsyan urged “some of the most active young protesters” to get involved in the audit, calling for them to end the round-the-clock sit-in on central Baghramyan Avenue in Yerevan and “stop paralyzing the city center.”

President Sargsyan’s statement has received varied reaction among demonstrators on Baghramyan Avenue: some are dancing and chanting “Victory!”, others are still unsure what to make of the offer. Representatives of “No to Robbery” initiative groups are yet to announce whether the sit-in would continue. The activists, however, have stated that it’s unacceptable for them to pay the increased cost by means of the state budget, that is, at the expense of taxpayers. 

On June 19, thousands of demonstrators began round-the-clock protests in Yerevan against the plans by the national power utility to raise electricity tariffs in Armenia. 

On June 22, hundreds of the demonstrators marched toward the RA presidential residence on central Marshal Baghramyan Avenue. However, hundreds of armed police officers, forming a barricade, closed the road, not allowing demonstrators to get any closer to the presidential office. Protesters then sat in the middle of the road at the intersection of Baghramyan and Isahakyan streets, staging an impromptu sit-in outside the presidential palace.

Early on June 23, authorities warned the people that the protest was unsanctioned and warned that if the demonstrators did not clear the area, the police would use “special means” to disperse them. Shortly after, Armenian riot police violently dispersed the crowd.