Police in the Armenian capital have cleared away barricades to unblock a central avenue that demonstrators had occupied for two weeks to protest hikes in electricity prices in the impoverished former Soviet nation.

Police on Monday also peacefully detained about 20 demonstrators who refused to disperse, but said they would soon be freed. It was unclear whether the protest would resume elsewhere in the evening.

The prolonged standoff with police was the most serious unrest that Armenia, a close ally of Russia, has seen in years.

As the number of protesters grew, reaching about 15,000, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan promised June 27 to suspend the rate increase. The protesters, however, refused to remove their barricades, formed from large trash containers, but the number joining the nightly protest rallies gradually dwindled.