Soviet tanks and troops Friday poured into the capital of Armenia and a disputed region of a neighboring province, and food was reported scarce because of a general strike.
Thousands gathered for a rally Friday in Yerevan, the Armenian capital, to press the republic's parliament to renew a demand to annex the disputed region, a mountainous enclave in Azerbaijan called Nagorno-Karabakh.Troops filled Yerevan's city center, said Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Scott McCallum, who returned from Yerevan Friday.
McCallum said he saw at least four large military planes unloading equipment at the capital's airport this morning and that for the past two nights the "planes were coming in one after another."
He estimated that 1,200 troops in all were stationed in the area Thursday night. More appeared this morning, he said.
"In effect, the city is blockaded," he said in an interview in Moscow.
"I don't want to say the whole city is surrounded," said the deputy director of Armenia's official news agency, Armenpress. "But at Lenin Square and other areas where there are government buildings there are hundreds of soldiers." He said many businesses were closed by a general strike.
In Nagorno-Karabakh, factories and schools were closed by a strike, a curfew was in effect and soldiers were patrolling, a resident said.
The soldiers carried machine guns and rode around Nagorno-Karabakh's main city, Stepanakert, in tanks and armored personnel carriers, said the resident, who identified herself in a telephone interview only as a worker for the state broadcasting agency Gostelradio.
State-run television on Thursday night showed armored personnel carriers parked on Yerevan streets and said similar measures were taken in 16 other areas of Armenia with a "mixed population," apparently meaning areas where both Armenians and Azerbaijanis live.
The official news agency Tass said the strike in Yerevan had spread to three other towns and an entire district of Armenia, whose population is 3.4 million.
Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman Vadim Perfiliev told a regular news briefing in Moscow on Thursday that one man had died of injuries suffered in clashes between Armenians and Azerbaijanis, and that 48 others were wounded.