Armenia: mourning procession for Karabakh dead – march, protest, statements
On December 19, a three-day mourning period began in Armenia for those killed in the second Karabakh war.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and members of the government and a fairly crowded column of his supporters were hardly able to go to the graves of the dead, as the entrance to the military pantheon was blocked by volunteer soldiers, participants in the Karabakh war in the early 90s, as well as relatives of those killed during the hostilities in the fall of 2020.
The protesters say PM Pashinyan is to blame for the death of thousands of people, the loss of territories in Karabakh and defeat in the last war, which ended with the signing of the trilateral truce agreement with Russia and Azerbaijan.
However, the police managed to push back the protesters, the prime minister and his supporters entered the territory of the pantheon and payed homage to the memory of the victims.
On the ‘excesses’ of the first day of mourning and what caused them, as well as important details of an address delivered by PM Pashinyan on the occasion of the day of remembrance.
How it all started
The tension began in the evening of December 18, when the opposition organized a march to the Yerablur military pantheon.
17 opposition parties decided to hold their own procession apart from the one organised by the authorities the night before. However, they did so without political slogans and the opposition leaders did not speak that day.
Procession of the government column
On December 19, after one o’clock in the afternoon, the government column of the prime minister and his supporters moved to the pantheon of dead soldiers. But long before they reached the site, the entrance to the territory of the pantheon was blocked by the participants of the first war in Karabakh and relatives of those killed during the recent hostilities.
The outraged parents of the dead soldiers stated that they did not intend to remain silent and would not allow Pashinyan to go to the graves of their children. “Pashinyan is a traitor,” they chanted and warned that the prime minister would have to enter the territory of Yerablur ‘over their corpses’.
But the police managed to push them back and secure a safe passage for the prime minister, despite clashes with protesters and injuries. Pashinyan’s bodyguards were forced to cover the prime minister.
PM Pashinyan’s speech
In the morning of December 19, before the start of the march, Nikol Pashinyan made a video message, from which it became clear again that he was not going to retire. This is not the first time that he has declared that the political future of Armenia will be decided through elections, that is, the expression of the will of the people, and not a ‘riot’ organised by the opposition.
At the same time, the prime minister again admitted his guilt in what happened:
“I take full responsibility for everything – according to my duty. And I said that I would accept any verdict that our people make. But I cannot help saying that while the institution of the ‘scapegoat’ is good for relieving the soul, expressing rage and anger, then it is useless in terms of acquiring a deep understanding of what happened. That is necessary for building the future, and in order not to repeat the past path.”
He also spoke about an issue that in recent days has troubled Armenia greatly – the southern border of the country in the Syunik region, where the demarcation and delimitation of the border with Azerbaijan is now taking.
After the signing of THE trilateral agreement on the cessation of hostilities in Karabakh, the regions around Nagorno-Karabakh were given to Azerbaijan, as a result of which a ‘new border’ emerged.
Pashinyan explained that in Syunik, which until that moment was defended by local militias and volunteers with their own forces, border guards, including Russian ones, are stationed. Their posts, according to the prime minister, are located on the internationally recognized borders of Armenia – that is, there is no reason to believe that the country is losing the territory of Syunik.
On the eve, local residents held protest demonstrations here and even blocked roads, demanding explanations from the authorities. This was due to the demand of the Armenian Ministry of Defense until the evening of December 18 to vacate positions on the heights of the city of Kapan, since they will be transferred to the Azerbaijani side.
Residents of Syunik are worried that they are losing advantageous positions in the heights, and Azerbaijani military posts are now at a distance of less than a kilometer.