Electricity Price Hike Suspended in Armenia

Electricity Price Hike Suspended in ArmeniaElectricity Price Hike Suspended in Armenia

The president of Armenia has suspended an increase in electricity prices that led to more than a week of protests.

Serzh Sargsyan said the government would temporarily cover the cost of the electricity price rise pending a review.

Protesters have been blocking the main avenue in the capital, Yerevan. They remained on the streets on Saturday, saying the president's concession fell short of their demand for the price hike to be reversed, BBC reported.

Protests began a few days after a 17 June decision by the state utilities commission to increase electricity tariffs from the beginning of August by more than 16%.

In the early hours of Tuesday, the situation escalated when police used water cannon to disperse the crowd.

Analysts say the protests are partly fueled by anger over years of alleged corruption and unaccountability within the Armenian government, and big business monopolized by Russian oligarchs with ties to the Kremlin.

Armenia still has close links with Russia. The former Soviet nation hosts a Russian military base and a Russian company runs its power distribution network.

The electricity network is wholly owned by Inter-RAO, a large Russian energy company whose chairman Igor Sechin is a close friend of President Vladimir Putin. Sargsyan's announcement of the price hike suspension followed a meeting with Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov.

Russia agreed to loan Armenia $200 million (£127 million) to help modernize its military, and to allow a Russian soldier accused of killing seven members of an Armenian family to be tried locally.