On the brink of civil war? Armenian political crisis continues
Pashinyan’s supporters and opponents poured out onto the streets following the release of the announcement.
PM Pashinyan denounced what he described as an ‘attempted coup’, and said that he had already prepared documents for the dismissal of the head of the General Staff Onik Gasparyan.
The president, Armen Sargsyan, has three days to deliberate on the matter and decide whether or not to dismiss Gasparyan.
Shortly after the statement of the military was released, two large rallies were held simultaneously in Yerevan.
One was organized by the united opposition bloc, which has been demanding Pashinyan’s resignation since November 2020. The other rally consisted of Pashinyan’s supporters who gathered upon his request.
Nikol Pashinyan called for all political forces to leave the streets and join the negotiations, and for the leadership of the General Staff to return to their duties. Nevertheless, the opposition does not intend to leave and decided to remain on the streets until Nikol Pashinyan resigns.
Russia has already commented on the events that took place in Armenia today. Moscow refers to the ongoing crisis as an internal affair of the country, but, at the same time, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow expects a peaceful resolution to it.
“Ankara expresses its strong condemnation of the attempted coup”, said Foreign Minister of Turkey, Mevlut Cavusoglu.
The US Embassy in Armenia released a statement in which it encouraged “all parties to exercise calm and restraint and to de-escalate tensions peacefully, without violence”.
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Pashinyan calls on opposition to end civil disobedience demonstrations
Nikol Pashinyan opened his speech at the Republic Square with a moment of silence commemorating the soldiers who died during the second Karabakh war.
He then ordered the army to return to its duties and defend the Armenian borders:
“This is my order as a representative of the power of the people. Nobody has the right to violate this order”.
Pashinyan added he is confident that the people of Armenia will never let a military coup happen. PM Pashinyan also said that many generals and officers signed statements by the orders of their immediate superiors.
In order to resolve the crisis, Pashinyan invited the head of the General Staff to write a letter of resignation himself:
“There is no need to subject the people to constant shocks … I will not allow the army to go against the people”.
He also addressed the opposition:
“I call on all political forces to stop the actions of disobedience. Let’s start a dialogue!”
At the same time, Pashinyan said that if the protests continue, the authorities that came to power as a result of the 2018 Velvet Revolution will abandon their soft “velvet” approach:
“If you go beyond political statements, then we will begin to detain those breaking the law”.
“Our position has not changed” – second statement of the military
Before Pashinyan’s supporters gathered at the square, the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces issued a second statement, which stressed that the original statement had been written, signed and sent under no external pressure:
“This is the real position of generals and officers, who serve only one cause – protection of the Motherland. Once again we confirm our clear position”.
“Armenian Armed Force is performing its duties” – statement of the Ministry of Defense
The Armenian Armed Force is fulfilling its obligations of protecting the borders and ensuring the security of the state, reads the statement of the Armenian Defense Ministry:
“The army is an apolitical institution, and any attempts to involve the armed forces in certain political processes are unacceptable, as well as threatening to the stability and security of Armenia.”
Reaction of political parties
Leader of the opposition parliamentary faction Bright Armenia Edmon Marukyan urged the President not to sign the document on the dismissal of the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Onik Gasparyan.
“In recent days, the actions of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan were aimed at decapitating the army and dismissing the generals of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, all of which deserves condemnation”, the MP posted on Facebook.
Ex-President of Armenia Robert Kocharian called on the public to support the demand of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Armenia on the resignation of the Prime Minister:
“At this fateful moment, be the masters of our state, stand next to the Armed Forces and the Armenian army. The authorities who lost the war and surrendered [our] land must leave. Only this will ensure the revival of our nation”.
First President of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosyan called on the authorities and the opposition to show restraint. Ter-Petrosyan believes that the civil war will make Turkish and Azerbaijani dreams come true:
“The civil war will be the beginning of the end for the Armenian people”.
PM Pashinyan was supported by the ruling My Step bloc, which considers the “political statement of individual military personnel” to be unacceptable: “This unconstitutional step is aimed at seizing the power of the people during in this fragile post-war period full of external threats. Unfortunately, those in charge of the country’s security are behaving irresponsibly. The faction is united by the efforts in maintaining the stability of the state and protecting the power of the people”.