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More than 230 detained in Armenia after mass protests

Riot police have broken up a mass protest in the Armenian capital, Yerevan. The protest was triggered by the government's decision to raise electricity prices in the impoverished ex-Soviet republic.

Police have detained more than 230 demonstrators in Yerevan after dispersing a mass protest early on Tuesday. The protest came after about 5,000 people marched to the presidential headquarters on Monday.

Initially, they demonstrated against the government's plan to raise electricity prices from August 1 in the impoverished former Soviet republic. But later, some of the demonstrators called for the resignation of President Serge Sarkisian.

According to Armenia's Health Ministry, 25 people - including 11 police officers - were treated for injuries.

An AFP correspondent reported that plainclothes police also beat up journalists and destroyed or confiscated their equipment when the protests were dispersed. Police used water cannons to break up the rally.

The opposition Armenian National Congress Party boycotted a parliament session on Tuesday in protest against the police crackdown.

Hit by economic crisis in Russia

The mass demonstrations were organized through social media by a non-partisan group called "No to Robbery," activists who had recently succeeded in blocking a hike in bus ticket prices.

"We're witnessing an unprecedented situation in Armenia where a civic protest movement is taking root amid widespread poverty," independent analyst Stepan Sakharian told AFP, adding: "All this may lead to political change."

Armenia's power distribution company, owned by Russian state-controlled holding Inter RAO, asked the government to raise electricity tariffs due to the devaluation of the national currency.

Armenia has been badly hit by the

economic crisis in Russia

, the country's foremost trading partner. Exports to Russia have decreased, as have remittances from Armenian migrants working there.

The landlocked country's economy is also affected by the closure of its borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey over the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous enclave inside Azerbaijan but with an ethnic Armenian majority.

das/cmk (AP, AFP)

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