Yerevan protests: opposition demands resignation of PM and annulment of Karabakh agreement
Following the Karabakh truce agreement signed by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia on November 10, the outraged opposition has held a rally in Yerevan protesting the truce.
The protest boils down to demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who signed the agreement.
The conditions of the agreement ignited protest – according to the document, regions adjacent to Karabakh are to be transferred back to Azerbaijan, with Azerbaijani refugees returning there. As of November 11, Russian peacekeeping forces have already taken positions in the conflict zone.
At first, not many people gathered at Freedom Square in Yerevan – just several hundred. But following arrests of the protesters, more people began to come out in the streets; now there are thousands.
Accordingly, the number of law enforcement officers increased with the police bringing in internal troops as well.
The opposition party leaders who organized the rally spoke with the slogans “Nikol, go away!”, “Nikol is a traitor!”, which the audience also chanted.
The rally took place despite the fact that the martial law regime is still in force in the country, which prohibits such events.
Before it began, the Prosecutor General’s Office and the police warned that “for participation in strikes and rallies during martial law, a fine of four hundred to seven hundred times the minimum wage (i.e. 400-700 thousand drams, or about 800-1500 dollars) is to be administered”.
From Freedom Square, the demonstrators took to the government building.
They demand the convening of an urgent meeting of the parliament to consider lifting of the martial law and declaring a vote of no confidence in Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
What happened on Freedom Square
Police officers lined up between the participants and organizers of the rally to remove the leaders of the protest from the square.
This escalated the situation.
Protesters beat a police officer. A law enforcement officer covered in blood was taken away by his colleagues.
The rally of 17 opposition political forces was supposed to begin at 13:00, but the police began to detain the participants and organizers even earlier. Among them are representatives of the Republican Party and the Fatherland Party. The leader of the Prosperous Armenia Party Gagik Tsarukyan was taken to the National Security Service.
“Instead of overcoming fear, an inferiority complex, the authorities are once again trying to detain Tsarukyan. They never realized that they could not detain or arrest three million people. Everyone understands well that after signing this document, he [Prime Minister Pashinyan] will try to shift the responsibility onto others,” said Yvette Tonoyan from the Prosperous Armenia Party.
The opposition believes that the current government is going down the road of political repression.
By 2:30 pm the police had already detained 129 people.
About the organizers
The rally was organized by the united council of 17 opposition parties, which demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Pashinyan and the government even before the signing of the ceasefire agreement. Following the ceasefire, they made a statement saying that voluntary resignation is the least that Nikol Pashinyan can do.
“A treacherous agreement was signed behind the backs of the soldiers defending the land and statehood with their blood at the front, and all of us. We must unite and avoid internal unrest and provocations,” the Council said in a statement.
Most of the opposition parties, which now have united in the struggle for the resignation of the head of state and in an attempt to cancel the agreement he signed, are unknown to ordinary residents of the country.
The backbone of the coalition consists of three parties. One of them is the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia, whose departure from power during the 2018 Velvet Revolution was supported by the majority of the population. At that time, the people just supported the leader of the revolution, Nikol Pashinyan, who was calling for the resignation of then head of state Serzh Sargsyan.
The second well-known political force is the Prosperous Armenia Party, which entered the parliament following the revolution and plays the role of one of the opposition forces.
The third known force is the ARF Dashnaktsutyun party, which has not been very popular lately, but acts as the toughest opposition of the current authorities.
The opposition coalition also includes a party created by former head of the National Security Service Artur Vanetsyan, who was appointed to this position and then dismissed by Prime Minister Pashinyan. This party is better known thanks to its creator, who became popular during his service as the head of the NSS.
The role of the son-in-law of the former head of Armenia
Mikael Minasyan, ex-Armenian ambassador to the Vatican, son-in-law of ex-president Serzh Sargsyan, made an appeal to the residents of Armenia to join the opposition rally. The day before the rally, he posted online that it is still possible to change the tide of the signed agreement. For this, it is necessary for society to consolidate and demand the resignation of Prime Minister Pashinyan:
“The country has four days or 96 hours to change the situation, and the only problem is the incumbent Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan. Dear compatriots, I am writing as a person who is well acquainted with our country’s politics, knows the regional forces, is familiar with how statements are coordinated, how they can be changed even at the last moment. I declare with full responsibility that not everything is lost forever.”
He also emphasized that this statement is not an attempt to gain power, but rather “a struggle for land, dignity and security.”