Yerevan police have detained dozens of protesters as anti-government demonstrators gather for another round of action demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. As of Monday morning, police confirmed that 142 people were taken into custody, a significant increase from the previous hour’s count of 53 arrests.
The protest organizers planned to occupy major road crossings in the Armenian capital, and the police have warned that those who refuse to disperse will face arrest. Amidst the ongoing protests, a court in Yerevan ordered the one-month arrest of activist Levon Kocharyan, the son of former Armenian President Robert Kocharyan. He was taken into custody during a protest last Friday and is accused of attacking four police officers. There are reports that he was subjected to physical assault during his apprehension.
The protests in Yerevan were triggered by the recent escalation of conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway region of Azerbaijan populated mainly by ethnic Armenians. In a quick military operation, the Azerbaijani forces regained control over the region. This has led to many residents of Nagorno-Karabakh rejecting calls for reintegration into Azerbaijan and moving to Armenia instead. The government reported that over 2,900 people have arrived from the region’s capital, Stepanakert (known as Khankendi in Azerbaijani), by Monday morning. Out of these, approximately 1,100 refugees have been provided with shelter, while 1,000 others have been able to find accommodation on their own.
It is worth noting that Yerevan has supported Nagorno-Karabakh’s bid for independence for several decades. However, the Pashinyan government formally recognized Baku’s sovereignty over the region last year during peace talks following border clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Prime Minister Pashinyan has distanced himself from the recent hostilities, stating that the safety of locals is Russia’s responsibility. After the 2020 war, Russia deployed peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh through a truce brokered by Moscow.
Despite the calls for his resignation, Pashinyan has refused to step down and has promised a “tough response” from law enforcement, in line with his government’s “steel mandate.” He has also accused politicians associated with Nagorno-Karabakh of inciting violence in Armenia.
Robert Kocharyan, who was born in Stepanakert, has served as both president and prime minister of the self-proclaimed republic. He has been a prominent political figure in the region.
The situation in Yerevan remains tense as the protests continue and more arrests are made. The demands for Pashinyan’s resignation reflect the frustration and discontent among a significant portion of the Armenian population. The ongoing protests also highlight the complex and delicate political dynamics surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh and its relationship with Armenia and Azerbaijan.