Why residents of south Armenia block PM's entrance into region
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan was unable to visit major cities in the south of the country earlier today after residents of Syunik region blocked roads, in particular, the Yerevan-Goris highway, and did not let the prime minister into the region.
He literally had to fly over closed roads in a helicopter.
The day before, Pashinyan wrote on his Facebook page that he was going to spend Monday working day in Syunik, visit the cities of Meghri, Kapan, Goris, Sisian, and meet with residents and representatives of local self-government.
However, the prime minister’s visit was limited only to the city of Sisian and the village of Sarnakunk. He did not go further.
What is happening in Syunik, why the prime minister decided to interrupt the trip, and who is the priest who refused to shake hands with him.
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Situation in Syunik
As a result of the second Karabakh war, the Zangelan region of Karabakh bordering on the Syunik region of Armenia, was transferred to Azerbaijan.
Now demarcation and delimitation is taking place in the area, along the administrative boundaries of the Soviet era.
As a result, the road between Goris and Kapan, Syunik region, crosses Azerbaijani territory in several places. Moreover, part of the airport in the city of Kapan, along the new borders, is also located on the territory of Azerbaijan.
The protests in the region began from the moment when the mayor of Kapan, Gevorg Parsyan, announced the order of the Armenian Ministry of Defense to vacate military posts near the city, located at “favorable heights”, by the evening of December 18.
The mayor said that at the same time the Azerbaijani Armed Forces will approach the borders of Armenia and will be at a distance of less than a kilometer, and the road from Kapan to the four nearest villages: Khdrants, Kapan, Yeghvard and Uzhanis “will fall into enemy territory”.
On the evening of December 20, the Mayor of Goris, Arush Arushanyan, called on the residents of Syunik “not to allow the person who is giving up Armenian lands to enter the region.”
“This is not a question of political orientation and not an initiative of any party, this is the struggle of the people of Syunik for dignity, security and physical existence, a manifestation of pan-Armenian disobedience,” the mayor wrote on his Facebook page.
How events developed
On the morning of December 21, it became known that the mayor of Goris had been detained, and information also appeared that criminal proceedings were instituted against Arusha Arushanyan.
At the same time, Deputy Mayor Irina Yolyan stated that Arushanyan’s lawyers are unable to obtain any information about him from the police.
Meanwhile, Nikol Pashinyan, on his way to Syunik, spoke live on his Facebook page and said that he was going to pay tribute to the residents of the region and talk openly with them:
“I intend to answer your questions, not to salt the wounds. I have fulfilled and are fulfilling my obligations to you in full. […] I want to emphasize that not a single millimeter will be given away from the territory of Syunik.”
But the words of the prime minister did not affect the residents of Syunik, and the road remained closed. More than a dozen buses with policemen were pulled into Syunik. From time to time there were clashes between the residents who blocked the road and the police.
As a result, the head of government “overcame the barrier” by helicopter.
Where did the PM visit and what he said
Nikol Pashinyan first drove to the village of Sarnakunk and talked with local residents about the processes taking place on the border with Azerbaijan:
“It so happened that the Goris-Kapan road passes through the Soviet borders of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Now our border troops are stationed there, the security and operation of the road will also be ensured by Russian border guards.”
In Sisian, Pashinyan laid flowers on the graves of soldiers killed in the war. Here he also communicated with residents and explained the situation with the borders.
According to him, the demarcation of borders is being carried out now in accordance with the law of Armenia on administrative-territorial division, which was adopted by the previous authorities – back in 2010.
Some of the residents of the city of Sisian welcomed the prime minister warmly. In conversation with them, he said that he had decided to interrupt his trip to Syunik region. The head of the cabinet explained his decision by the fact that he did not intend to succumb to provocations, especially taking into account the mourning announced in the country from 19 to 21 December.
However, not everyone in Sisian was happy with the premier.
The rector of the church Surb Grigor Lusavorich (Saint Gregory the Illuminator) Pargev Zeynalyan did not shake hands with the Prime Minister and with his eyes made it clear that he should leave the temple. A video of this incident appeared online.