ELECTION SEALED BY BLOOD

Kommersant
www.kommersant.com
March 3 2008
Russia

Eight people were killed and 120 to 200 injured past weekend in
Armenia's capital Erevan during the dispersal of the opposition
demonstration and the following street riots. The government declared
a state of emergency in the city.

The square near the Opera Theater was encircled the police early
Saturday. The officers needed 10 minutes to break up the 10-day sit-in
of the opposition protesting against election of Prime Minister Serzh
Sarkisyan to replace Robert Kocharyan as Armenia's president.

Meanwhile, the people were gathering again near the encircled square,
this time at the Mashtots and Tumanyan crossroad, moving towards
the French Embassy afterwards. They filled all Myasnikyan Square,
where the windows of French Embassy, Italian Embassy, the House of
Moscow and Erevan City Hall look out. The riot police cordoned off
this square in an hour but the mob blocked officers, pushing them to
the City Hall in a phantom victory.

No leader of the opposition was at the square that time. The people
were waiting for Levon Ter-Petrosyan, but he was under the house
arrest, his representatives said.

At least 100,000 closed the ranks at the small square when Nikol
Pashinyan from the opposition showed up to urge the crowd to wait for
Ter-Petrosyan. To no avail though, the former president never appeared
at that square that day. At around 9:00 p.m., a group of officers
attempted to break up protestors from Mashtots Street, but the division
was so small in number that the mere effort looked at least strange.

Having swallowed the first group of riot police, the encouraged
mob opposed the next one. The shots were heard and victorious youth
chased the police to Mashtots and Proshyan crossroad. The violent
riots erupted.

Late at night, Robert Kocharyan declared the state of emergency for
twenty days. The parliament voted nearly unanimously for that decision
at the extraordinary sitting to sanction the army and police to use
force and crush the riots. At 3:00 a.m., Levon Ter-Petrosyan urged
the supporters to leave the square, warning that authorities would
shed blood. A few thousand obeyed nearly simultaneously.

Reinforced by armored vehicles, the riot police cleared the square
from the remaining at 4:30 a.m.