YEREVAN, “Armenia” – Hundreds of opposition supporters continued to blockade the Armenian parliament for the second day in a row on Wednesday, demanding the resignation of the country’s prime minister, who has been conducting military exercises to calm the top military group.
Nikol Pashinyan rejected opposition pressure to drop the November peace deal, which ended six weeks of fierce fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, allowing Azerbaijan to regain control of decades-old Armenian-held territory.
Political tensions escalated last month when the General Staff of the Armed Forces demanded Pashinyan’s resignation, to which he responded by dismissing Chief of General Staff Colonel-General Onik Gasparyan. On Wednesday, Pashinyan appointed Gasparyan’s legal successor and met with senior military officials.
Gasparyan condemned his resignation as unconstitutional, reaffirmed the call for the resignation of the Prime Minister.
Another senior officer, Major General Grigory Khachaturov, who is the commander of the 3rd Army Corps, strongly supported Gasparyan in a statement on Wednesday, saying that “every hour Pashinyan stays in the post of Prime Minister, destroys Armenia’s security, raises suspicions.” about its future. “
As part of an effort to put pressure on Pashinyan, opposition supporters surrounded the parliament building on Tuesday. Hundreds of protesters continued the blockade on Wednesday amid heavy police presence.
Later, they expanded their activities to close the street leading to Pashinyan’s residence.
Speaking at an opposition rally, Ishkhan Saghatelyan, one of the leaders of the protest, accused the government of violating the constitution, accusing it of giving people the right to revolt against it.
Pashinyan tried to defuse the political crisis by proposing a snap parliamentary vote later this year, but he flatly rejected the opposition’s demand to step down before the vote.
Pashinyan has faced opposition demands for the resignation of the opposition since November 10, when a 44-day peace deal in Nagorno-Karabakh ended with a Russian-brokered peace deal that killed more than 6,000 people. In the agreement, Azerbaijan regained control of most of the territories adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh, which had been held by Armenian forces for more than a quarter of a century.
Pashinyan, a 45-year-old former journalist who came to power in 2018 after a massive street protest in which he ousted his predecessor and defended his predecessor, defended the peace deal as the only way to prevent the Azeri army from occupying the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region. It was part of Azerbaijan, but was under the control of Armenian-backed ethnic Armenian forces since the separatist war there ended in 1994.
Russia has deployed about 2,000 peacekeepers to monitor the peace agreement.
Vladimir Isachenkov participated in this report in Moscow.