Armenia presidential candidate Hayrikyan shot in Yerevan

Armenian presidential candidates Paruir Airikian (2nd left, top row) is one of eight contenders in the poll

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A candidate in Armenia's presidential elections has been shot and wounded in the capital Yerevan, in what officials believe was an assassination attempt.

The officials say Paruyr Hayrikyan, aged 63, was taken to hospital with a gunshot injury to his shoulder. He is reportedly in a stable condition.

Police have sealed off the area and are searching for the gunman.

Mr Hayrikyan, a well-known dissident from the Soviet era, is one of eight people contesting the 18 February poll.

He spent a number of years in Soviet prison camps and in exile for being a member of a clandestine political organisation as well as for his anti-establishment writings.

Mr Hayrikyan is seen as one of the outsiders in the elections, with incumbent leader Serge Sarkisian widely expected to win.

The 2008 presidential vote led to clashes between police and protesters which left 10 people dead after then Mr Sarkisian was declared the winner.

Armenia's economy was badly hit by the 2008-9 global financial crisis. It remains hobbled by a trade blockade imposed by neighbouring Turkey and Azerbaijan since the 1990s war with Azerbaijan over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

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