The Russia-operated Electricity Networks of Armenia, the country’s main power supplier, claimed to be so cash-strapped that it had to raise rates, an announcement that sparked massive protests. But the company’s revenue woes did not prevent executives from authorizing millions of dollars in donations to a charitable organization chaired by Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan.
Sit-in protests over the rate hike erupted in the Armenian capital Yerevan in June, and revived briefly on September 11 before being stopped by police. The initial demonstration, which spread nationwide, quickly moved beyond the issue of electricity prices to focus on suspicions that Armenian officials maintained cozy relationships with corporate cronies and misused taxpayer money. The protests dissipated only after the government offered to cover the increased power costs for consumers.
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Marianna Grigoryan is a freelance reporter based in Yerevan and editor of MediaLab.am.