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Thousands in Yerevan Protest Against Electricity Tariff Rise

Several thousand people protested on Monday in the Armenian capital Yerevan against a recent decision to raise public electricity prices.

About 5,000 demonstrators marched to the presidential headquarters but were stopped by riot police and began a sit-in protest on the road, blocking traffic.

The protest, which was organised by young activists with no affiliation to political parties, was triggered by the state regulating commission’s decision last week to increase the tariff on electricity by 17-22 percent from August 1.

The head of Yerevan’s police has told the protesters that Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan is ready to talk to several of them.

Make up a group of three to five people and the President of Armenia will see them. The rest of the protest participants have to return to Freedom Square,” he told the gathering. Freedom Square was where the march started.

That rise followed a request by the electricity distribution company for Armenia’s electricity network, a subsidiary of the Russian firm Inter RAO, which said the move followed the fall in Armenia’s currency, the dram.

The dram currency was trading at around 473 to the dollar on Monday, compared with 407 drams a year earlier.

Armenia, a former Soviet republic of 3.2 million people, has been badly hit by the economic downturn in Russia, which has hurt exports and much-needed remittances from Armenian workers based there.