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Dissident Tells of Giant Rally by Armenians

From Times Wire Services

A Moscow dissident said hundreds of thousands of Armenians held a street rally on Monday in the capital of their Caucasus republic to renew territorial demands that form the core of an ethnic dispute.

Sergei Grigoryants, a journalist, said a protest by about 300,000 people occurred outside the Opera Theater, on a square in Yerevan where huge demonstrations were held in February. Grigoryants is half Russian and half Armenian.

No independent confirmation of the journalist’s report was available.

Armenian protesters want the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh put under Armenian jurisdiction. Most of the people in Nagorno-Karabakh, which was assigned to the neighboring southern republic of Azerbaijan in 1923, are ethnic Armenians. They are also mostly Christian, in contrast with the Azerbaijani majority, which is Muslim.

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Two Friends Detained

Grigoryants said police had detained two friends of Paruyr Ayrikyan, an Armenian nationalist arrested in March. He said Mofses Gorgisyan and Nehak Gabrilyan were accused of organizing a protest May 26, were held for 10 hours and fined 50 rubles each.

Grigoryants also said a general strike had been under way in Stepanakert, the regional capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, for the past week. The city’s mainly Armenian population has staged mass demonstrations and protest strikes since February to demand a redrawing of the border.

The last demonstration reported in Yerevan was on Saturday, when about 50,000 people were said to have demanded that Ayrikyan be released and that May 28 be made a holiday. The Armenian Republic was proclaimed May 28, 1918.

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