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Situation Outside Seized Police Station ‘Tense,’ Gunmen Say (Updated)

11:20 PM Epress.am correspondents report that at the moment there is indeed a heavy police presence around the seized police station.


11 PM Areg Kyureghyan, one of the armed men occupying the Erebuni police station in Yerevan, said in a phone conversation with Armtimes.com that the situation outside the building was tense as “authorities are currently undertaking preparatory works.”
When asked what exactly these “preparatory works” were, Kyureghyan said; “There’s construction work going on nearby; troops are coming and going. Authorities are carrying out some activities, but we don’t know what exactly."

Meanwhile, A1plus.am reports that Varuzhan Avetisyan has informed Karo Yeghnukyan that military equipment was being brought to the area. 

10:20 PM Having made sure that the detainees were released, the marchers returned to Freedom Square.

8:55 PM The citizens gathered at the Freedom Square have started to march through the streets of Yerevan, shouting out “Free, Independent Armenia” and demanding that all the people detained earlier be set free. The marchers are also chanting the names of jailed opposition leaders Shant Harutyunyan and Zhirayr Sefilyan.

8:20 PM A public discussion initiated by No to Plunder action group took off at Yerevan’s central Freedom Square at 7 pm local time during which participants voiced the idea to march toward the occupied police station in the city’s Erebuni district. This plan, however, was hindered by police officers who blocked the marchers’ way and forcibly detained several citizens.

First deputy chief of national police Hunan Poghosyan subsequently promised that all the detainees would soon be released; he also insisted that at the moment law enforcement authorities did not plan to take any actions against the Erebuni gunmen.

4:30 PM The people inside the occupied Erebuni police station have today been provided with food and medication, according to a statement issued by Armenia’s National Security Service. One of the hostages, a police officer, has been released as a result of negotiations, the NSS added.

Note, two other hostages, a police officer and an ambulance driver, were set free earlier on Monday.

11 AM One police officer, Colonel Artur Vanoyan, was killed and several others wounded early on Sunday during an exchange of fire between the police and and an armed group affiliated with radical anti-government movement Founding Parliament as the latter stormed and took over the Erebuni police station in Yerevan, demanding the resignation of Armenia’s president Serzh Sargsyan and that jailed Founding Parliament leader Zhirayr Sefilyan and all the other political prisoners be freed. Pavel Manukyan, one of the key members of the armed group calling themselves the "Daredevils of Sasun," subsequently told reporters that two of his men had also sustained injuries as a result of the fire exchange. 

As of Monday morning,six police officers, among them Yerevan deputy police chief Valery Osipyan and deputy chief of national police Vardan Yeghiazaryan, were being held hostage inside the station. Founding Parliament member Varuzhan Avetisyan told reporters that the group were keeping Osipyan and Yeghiazaryan, who had arrived at the scene yesterday with the aim of negotiating with the armed men, as a security guarantee; he added that one police officer had been let go over the night "as a gesture of good will."

Speaking to reporters outside the seized station, the first deputy chief of Armenia’s police Hunan Poghosyan said yesterday that security forces would continue to negotiate with the attackers for as long as there was hope to resolve the situation without “further bloodshed.” The Founding Parliament members, however, have kept insisting that they would not negotiate with law enforcement and that they did not intend to surrender without a fight.

Nikol Pashinyan, a parliamentarian from the opposition Armenian National Congress faction, was allowed Sunday to enter the station and speak with the attackers. He subsequently published the following video from the scene, in which Pavel Manukyan says that their group had opened fire against against police officers in "self-defense."

"A sniper shot one of our men, so of course we fought back. We will retaliate if [security forces] open fire again," Manukyan claims. Another member of the group is then heard calling on the police to "lay down your arms and join the people as we don't have anything against you – we are fighting against this criminal regime."

Throughout Sunday, members and supporters of Founding Parliament as well as those of other anti-government initiatives were being groundlessly arrested by law enforcement officers. The several dozen citizens and activists who had gathered in Yerevan’s central Freedom Square in support of the armed group were also forcibly detained by the police. As many as 50 citizens have been released from custody over the night.

Zhirayr Sefilyan, a Karabakh war veteran known for his strong criticism of President Sargsyan and the government, was arrested last month and charged with illegal acquisition and possession of arms. A statement by law enforcement authorities claimed that Sefilyan had organized the purchase of large quantities of weapons and ammunition and brought together an armed crime group with the aim of taking over a number of important communication buildings in Yerevan. The opposition leader and his supporters, however, insist that he is being prosecuted for political reasons.