Protests over the construction of a new highrise in one of Yerevan’s Soviet-era ‘scientific’ neighbourhoods have led to arrests, injuries, and a temporary halt to construction.
Police used force to disperse a Friday protest by residents living in a section of Yerevan’s Ajapnyak district which is locally known as Phys-Gorodok. Nine people were detained and two people hospitalised. One of them, a 16-year old boy, appeared to be severely beaten by police, while the other was a man who suffered a heart attack during the dispersal.
The order to suspend construction was issued by Armenia’s Environmental Ministry. A ministry statement reads that Ratko, the company building on the site, did not carry out a mandatory environmental impact assessment.
The building is set to be constructed over greenspace that has previously been used for recreational purposes by Phys-Gorodok residents.
The Ministry of Culture declared the Phys-Gorodok a 'local cultural monument' in February 2021. The area where the construction permit was granted, however, was deprived of the status shortly thereafter.
As of publication, the Yerevan municipality has remained silent on the matter.
The Phys-Gorodok neighbourhood in Ajapnyak was built in the 1950s for employees of the nearby Institute of Physics. Ratko was granted a permit by the Yerevan Mayor’s office to construct the 12-storey building in June 2020.
Unlike much of the city, Phys-Gorodok has maintained much of its Soviet-era green space with some residents attesting to animals such as hedgehogs and foxes still inhabiting the area. The neighbourhood has also maintained its Soviet-era low-rise architecture, with the tallest building in the area only four storeys tall.
A group of prominent civil society organisations have voiced their support for residents and called on the municipality to review the legal basis of the privatisation and construction permits granted on the piece of land in question, as well as to ‘bring to justice’ all police officers who used violence during the protest dispersal on Friday.
‘The Municipality had a strong interest in the construction of the building’, one of the protesters was filmed saying on Friday. Protest leaders allege that one floor of planned high-rise was to be granted as a ‘gift’ to the municipality which they consider to be a ‘legal bribe’.