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Armenian Grape Farmers Block Highway to Again Demand Overdue Payment

Nearly 150 farmers from the village of Aghavnadzor in Armenia's Vayots Dzor province blocked the main highway leading to capital Yerevan Monday morning to demand that Vedi Alco winery finally pays for the grapes that were purchased from them last fall. The villagers have also been boycotting classes, refusing to send their kids to either school or kindergarten. 

The Aghavnadzor grape farmers first began their demonstrations on September 1 by blocking the entrance to the local school in protest against the winery’s continued failure to pay their money – a total of 140 million drams (nearly $295,000). Vayots Dzor governor Harutyun Sargsyan, along with Vedi Alco owner Manvel Ghazaryan, was quick to come to the scene and promise that he would personally make sure the winery paid the villagers' money by September 15. Sargsyan, however, has failed to keep his word, and the farmers have resumed their protests.

Speaking to Epress.am, farmer Kostan Stepanyan said the governor had gone to the protest site again this morning to insist that it was impossible to solve the issue at the moment because of Hovik Abrahamyan's resignation as prime minister and the changes currently happening in the government. Harutyun Sargsyan then urged the protesters to unblock the road, and when the villagers refused to comply, about a hundred police officers rushed to break up the protest and pushed the demonstrators away from the road. 

“But we are not going to leave, and will block the road again if government officials do not give us answers in the coming hours. No one is going anywhere until the issue is resolved,” Kostan Stepanyan told our reporter.