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Troops Sent Back to Armenia Capital After Mass Rally

July 10, 1988|From Reuters

MOSCOW — Troops were sent back into Yerevan, the capital of the Soviet Republic of Armenia, on Saturday after protesters staged a huge rally Friday night to demand the resolution of a five-month regional dispute, local sources said.

"The troops are back," a Yerevan resident said in a telephone interview, adding that Soviet soldiers had chained off Opera Square, the site of the rally in which up to 800,000 people took part.

The demonstrators were demanding that Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian enclave in the neighboring republic of Azerbaijan, be removed from Azerbaijani administration.

Officials said Friday that the troops, who were deployed earlier in the week in response to a general strike in the capital, had been withdrawn.

The Yerevan resident contacted by telephone, who declined to be identified, said it was believed the troops were sent in to ensure the functioning of public transport.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said Saturday that Yerevan was now calm but declined to comment on the troop presence.

The strike sparked the first reported violence in Yerevan since protests over Nagorno-Karabakh began there in February.

On Tuesday, a youth was shot dead and 35 people were injured when protesters and troops clashed at Yerevan's airport, according to news reports. The airport was operating normally Saturday, the Soviet news agency Tass reported.

In Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous enclave administered by Azerbaijan since 1923, residents continued a general strike that has shut down the region for more than a month.

They began the action to protest the refusal of the Soviet authorities to meet a request by Nagorno-Karabakh's governing council to transfer the region to Armenia.

Los Angeles' Soviet Armenian population reacts to U.S. suspension of exit visas. (Part II, Page 1).

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