Soldiers swarmed into the Armenian capital of Yerevan and sealed it off Friday, trying to quell ethnic unrest that has closed schools and factories and led to food shortages in disputed Nagorno-Karabakh.
The official news agency Tass said police and soldiers arrested people suspected of burning homes in Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory in Azerbaijan. The territory's majority Armenian population wants Armenia to annex the region. Troops confiscated guns, knives and other weapons in the territory.Both Armenia and Azerbaijan are southern Soviet republics.
Tass said a general strike continued in Stepanakert, the main city in Nagorno-Karabakh, but that a curfew and a ban on public meetings
nd marches imposed Wednesday were diminishing tension.
In Yerevan, "there are troops and tanks. I don't want to say the whole city is surrounded, but at Lenin Square and other areas where there are government buildings there are hundreds of soldiers," said a man who identified himself as the deputy editor of Armenpress, Armenia's official news agency.
A Stepanakert resident said meat and other staples were non-existent.
The 20-member Presidium of the Armenian Supreme Soviet, the republic's highest executive body, met but did not discuss protesters' demand for a new session of the full Supreme Soviet, said a Tass editor in Yerevan.
The editor said by telephone that the Presidium expressed solidarity with Armenians' concerns over the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, but supported the program of the central government and Communist Party, which rejected annexation.
Deputy Interior Minister N.I. Demidov said in an interview on Soviet television that extra soldiers from the Interior Ministry and regular army had to be brought into Yerevan to prevent violence.
For the second night in a row, television news showed film of armored vehicles and police blocking streets in Yerevan.