Nikole Pashinyan faces renewed calls for his resignation as his opponents condemn his handling of the recent conflict with Azerbaijan.
Months-long calls for Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to resign again on Tuesday, as thousands of protesters staged the third demonstration in a week to demand his resignation over his handling of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Azerbaijan.
Police cordons were deployed to guard government buildings near Republic Square in the capital Yerevan, with officers accompanying Pashinyan as he walked from building to building as the protesters shouted “traitor!”
The day before, protesters marched to Place de France in Yerevan and closed several nearby streets, temporarily paralyzing traffic in the area.
The demonstrations come in the wake of the protests last November, which escalated after Pashinyan signed a peace agreement brokered by Russia after six weeks of conflict that has claimed thousands of lives and witnessed the ceding of large swaths of land in and around Nagorno Karabakh and around it to Azerbaijan.
The mountainous region is internationally recognized as the territory of Azerbaijan, but it has been under the control of Armenian ethnic forces and themselves appointed Armenian officials, with the support of Armenia, since a previous war between the two rivals ended with a ceasefire in 1994.
The protests lasted for a period of winter in Armenia, but resumed for the first time on Saturday when thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Yerevan.
“Procedures [civil] “The insurrection must continue for a long time, the city must be paralyzed from time to time,” said Ike Medjanian of the Armenian Republican Party.
Despite the pressure, Pashinyan refused to step down. He defended the peace agreement as a painful but necessary step that prevented Azerbaijan from invading the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
In an apparent concession to the protesters, Pashinyan in December raised the possibility of early parliamentary elections this year. However, Pashinyan’s two-step parliamentary coalition appeared to backtrack on that proposal earlier this month.
Armenia is looking to expand the Russian military presence
Monday’s protests came as Armenian Defense Minister Vagarshak Harutyunyan said his country would welcome the expansion of a Russian military base on its territory and the redeployment of some Russian forces near its border with Azerbaijan, after last year’s conflict.
Under the peace agreement, which was celebrated in Azerbaijan as a major victory, Russia has deployed some 2,000 peacekeepers to Nagorno Karabakh for at least five years.
Russia also has an entire military base managed by about 3,000 soldiers in the Armenian city of Gyumri, near the Turkish border, under an official defense agreement with Armenia.
“The issue of expanding and strengthening the Russian military base on the territory of Armenia has always been on the agenda,” Harutyunyan told the Russian news agency (RIA). The Armenian side has always been interested in this.
However, Harutyunyan did not say if there were any concrete plans for a potential expansion.
Harutyunyan also rejected calls from opposition politicians to establish a second Russian base in the southern Syunik region of Armenia, which is sandwiched between Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani Nakhchivan shoulder.
He said that he does not see a need for Russia to officially open a second military base, but added that the two countries are considering deploying a military unit from the current base to eastern Armenia, near the border with Azerbaijan.
Harutyunyan did not disclose the purpose of the potential redeployment nor its exact location.
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