September 12, 2015 / 1:21 PM / 2 years ago

Armenian police end latest protest against electricity price rise

YEREVAN (Reuters) - Police in the Armenian capital Yerevan on Saturday briefly detained around 50 people who had been blocking the main avenue in protest at higher electricity prices, a day after thousands demonstrated against the price hike.

    There has been a wave of street protests against the price increase that took effect on Aug. 1, suggesting that public anger has not abated despite several weeks of calm.

    On Saturday morning the police detained around 50 people at the blockade without using force. Those held were soon released but some have been charged with public order offences punishable by fines.

    Around 3,000 people had been present at the demonstration on Friday evening but only around 60 were still there when the police moved in early in the morning, according to a Reuters correspondent.

Armenia, a former Soviet republic of 3.2 million people, has been badly hit by the economic downturn in Russia, which has hurt exports and much-needed remittances from Armenian workers based there.

In May, the International Monetary Fund cut its 2015 forecast for Armenia to a 1 percent contraction from 3.3 percent growth. The World Bank has forecast weak or negative growth for an economy dependent on aid and Russian investment.

    In June, the state regulatory commission decided that household electricity prices should rise after the distribution company, a subsidiary of Russian firm Inter RAO, asked for a price hike, citing a decline in the dram currency.

    Armenian officials have called the planned increases justified but the government decided it would partly cover the price rise.

    The government approved a price increase of 16.7 percent per kilowatt, below the 30 percent requested by the distribution company, but still too high to mollify the protesters.

Reporting by Hasmik Mkrtchyan; Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Jason Bush and Raissa Kasolowsky

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