Armenian president suspends electricity price hikes in a bid to end 6 days of protests
Armenian president suspends electricity price hikes in a bid to end 6 days of protests –
YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — The president of Armenia on Saturday suspended hikes in household electricity rates in an effort to end the protests that have blocked the capital’s main avenue for six straight days.
President Serzh Sargsyan said the government of the former Soviet nation would bear the burden of the higher electricity costs until an audit of the Russian-owned power company could be completed.
It was not yet clear whether the announcement would persuade the demonstrators to disperse. Some of the activists said they weren’t yet ready to abandon their protest, but it wasn’t immediately apparent what else they were demanding.
Thousands of protesters have blocked Yerevan’s main avenue since Monday, their numbers steadily increasing throughout the week to a peak of about 15,000. In recent days, the protest has looked more like a street party, with the mostly young demonstrators dancing and singing national songs.
Armenia is closely allied with Russia, where the protests have caused great concern. Russia maintains a military base in Armenia, and Russian companies control most of its major industries, including the power grid.
Sargsyan’s announcement followed a meeting the night before with Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov, who co-chairs a Russian-Armenian economic commission. During the meeting, they agreed to a joint audit of the electricity company, but this didn’t satisfy the protesters.
Russia also agreed to give Armenia a $200 million loan to help it modernize its military, Sargsyan’s office said.