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Yerevan Municipality Defends Controversial House Demolitions

Authorities in Yerevan defended their handling of the ongoing
controversial redevelopment of the city center on Tuesday as police
cleared street barricades set up by owners of old houses subject to
demolition.

About a dozen families resisting eviction from one the capital’s
oldest neighborhoods blocked on Friday the roads leading to their homes
with stones and other heavy objects. They say financial compensation
offered to them by the government makes up a fraction of the market
value of their real estate. Residents of neighboring old quarters and
representatives of non-governmental organizations and opposition
parties held a sit-in there in a show of solidarity with the protesters
were joined on Monday.

Regular and special police units moved into the rapidly disappearing
Buzand Street on Tuesday and faced no resistance as they dismantled the
barricades. Police officers could still been seen at the scene in the
evening. But the protesting residents said they will not leave their
homes.

This and adjacent areas stand in the way of two new streets that are
being built in downtown Yerevan by private investors. Expensive
high-rise buildings are already emerging in place of the mostly old and
modest houses.

Karen Davtian, an official at the Yerevan municipality overseeing
the massive construction, defended the integrity and fairness of the
process. “People have too high expectations which we can not meet,” he
told a news conference.

Davtian claimed that only 5 percent of residents affected by the
redevelopment are unhappy with the amount of compensation which he put
at between $800 and $1,000 per square meter.

However, Buzand Street residents insist that they have been offered
less than half of that and can not buy decent apartments in other parts
of the city. They also say other families have received their cash only
several months after vacating their property.

“I have received no such complaints,” countered Davtian.

The official also said that the authorities will succeed in
persuading the protesters to leave their houses. “We won’t throw them
out,” he said. “We will negotiate and they will get out.”

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