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Armenian police arrest protesters against Russian invasion of Ukraine 

25 August 2022
Protesters hold the white-blue-white flag of Russia, which has come to symbolise opposition to the war among Russians. Image via epress.am.

Armenian police have broken up a peaceful protest in Yerevan against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, arresting 22 people.

Several dozen people, including Russians, Belarusians, and Ukrainians, gathered in central Yerevan on Wednesday to mark six months since the invasion. Police began detaining protesters who brought anti-war posters with them shortly after the demonstration began.

A police spokesperson told OC Media that the protesters were arrested for failing to comply with a lawful order by police officers and were later released. They did not specify what lawful order was ignored.

The protest was organised by Russian activist Yuri Alekseev, who was among those detained. He had received permission from the municipality to hold the demonstration. 

Alekseev told OC Media that the police demanded that they disperse as soon as they arrived. He accused them of ‘defending Putin’s interests’. 

‘I tried to report to the police hotline that a violation of the law was being committed against us. But we were all forced into a bus and taken to the police station’, Alekseev said.

He said the police did not inform them of what they were being charged with, prevented them from calling a lawyer, and did not provide interpreters. 

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Alekseev said they were released without charges.

‘I think that their task was to stop our rally no matter how. Therefore, they did not have a clear understanding of under what articles to charge us’.

According to express.am, two Russian journalists were among the detained, including blogger Aleksey Romanov. 

Two Armeiona rights groups, the Helsinki Civil Society Assembly Vanadzor Office and Union of Informed Citizens, have submitted an official complaint to the Prosecutor’s Office against the police for apparent violations of the right to freedom of assembly.

‘The rally was completely and unquestionably legal’, Daniel Ioannisyan from the Union of Informed Citizens wrote on Facebook. 

Ioannisyan said that police had likely acted on orders from above, adding that if the Prosecutor’s Office failed to launch an investigation over the arrests, this point would be ‘proved’.

He also speculated that orders may have been given following an appeal by the Russian Embassy in Yerevan.

Since the start of the war, several pro-peace and pro-Russian groups have organised demonstrations and marches in Yerevan; police had previously not interfered with any of them. 

Russians and Ukrainians who moved to Armenia were particularly active in organising and attending anti-war demonstrations.

The Armenian government has mostly kept silent about Russia’s invasion since 24 February, attempting to remain neutral in international votes on Russia.