Yerevan, Armenia – Armenia’s prime minister spoke of an attempted military coup on Thursday after demanding that the army’s general staff step down after months of protests sparked by the nation’s defeat in Nagorny Karabakh. conflict With Azerbaijan.
The General Staff issued a statement calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, and it was signed by senior army officers. This move came as a result of Pashinyan’s decision earlier this week to dismiss the First Deputy Chief of the General Staff.
Pashinyan described the army’s statement as an “attempted military coup” and ordered the dismissal of the Chief of the General Staff. He urged the army to listen only to his orders and called on his supporters to take to the streets to support him.
Meanwhile, crowds of opposition demonstrators roamed the capital’s streets The Armenian capitalThey chant, “Nicole, you traitor!” And “Nicole, quit!”
Supporters of the opposition closed streets around Yerevan, paralyzing traffic around the capital.
The rapid developments came after Armenia witnessed a spike in demonstrations this week to demand that Pashinyan step down.
The protests calling for Pashinyan’s resignation began immediately after he signed the peace agreement on November 10, which saw Azerbaijan regain control of large parts of Nagorny Karabakh and its surrounding areas. The agreement brokered by Russia ended 44 days of heavy fighting during which the Azerbaijani army defeated Armenian forces.
Pashinyan defended the peace agreement as a painful but necessary step to prevent Azerbaijan from invading the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Nagorno-Karabakh is located inside Azerbaijan but has been under the control of Armenian ethnic forces backed by Armenia since the separatist war ended there in 1994. That war left Nagorno-Karabakh itself and large surrounding areas in Armenian hands.
The heavy fighting that broke out in late September marked the largest escalation of the decades-long conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, killing more than 6,000 people on both sides.
Despite simmering popular anger at the military defeat, Pashinyan maneuvered to support his rule and protests subsided amid the cold of winter. But opposition demonstrations resumed with new force this week, and the rift between Pashinyan and the top military commanders weakened his position.
Pashinyan expelled the deputy chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General Tiran Khatchatrian, earlier this week after he ridiculed the prime minister’s claim that only 10% of the Iskander missiles supplied by Russia and used by Armenia in the conflict exploded upon collision.
The General Staff responded Thursday with a statement calling for Pashinyan’s resignation and warning the government against trying to use force against opposition demonstrators. Immediately after the statement, Pashinyan dismissed the Chief of the General Staff, Colonel Onik Gasparyan.