July 27, 2016

"Yerevan residents are rallying to voice their support for an armed militant group that seized a police station in the Erebuni district on July 17."

The Moscow Times: The militants are demanding the release of all political prisoners and the resignation of Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan. By Grigor Atanesian

'They call themselves “The Sassoon Daredevils” after the title of a medieval Armenian epic about the strongmen of Sassoun — a historic region of Armenia — and their struggle against Arab invaders. Among these latter-day Daredevils are two heroes of the Karabakh War of 1992-1994, Pavlik Manukyan and Araik Khandoyan. Both are renowned throughout Armenia and the international Armenian diaspora. Most Daredevils members support The Founding Parliament movement, the main non-systemic opposition force in the country. One of their first demands was the release of Jirair Sefilian, leader of The Founding Parliament, who was arrested in June.

'Over the past decade, Armenia has handed Russia control over many of the country’s strategic facilities, including the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant, Armsberbank (The Armenian State Savings Bank that later became a branch of Russia’s VTB bank), the Hrazdan Thermal Power Plant, and many other assets. And yet, over the past five years, Russia has sold Azerbaijan — Armenia’s main foreign enemy — offensive weapons worth more than $4 billion. Azerbaijan used those Russian weapons during a four-day clash with Armenia in April 2016 that resulted in the deaths of more than 100 Armenian soldiers.

'A consensus has formed in Armenian society that corruption and the authoritarian regime are the main problems facing the country, and that they are destroying the economy and threatening Armenia’s sovereignty. The groundswell of support for the Sassoon Daredevils, taking in everyone from retirees to youth carrying smartphones, is an indication that the ruling elites are not in for an easy ride.'

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