A protest in the Armenian capital of Yerevan turned violent on Tuesday as demonstrators attempted to storm government buildings. The crowd, angered by the prime minister’s stance on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, called Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan a “traitor”. Pashinyan has warned of a potential coup and police were forced to use stun grenades to hold back the protesters.
Video footage obtained by RT showed a large group of police officers forming a cordon around the cabinet building as protesters threw bottles at them. The glass doors of the building were damaged and there were reports of physical altercations between the crowd and the police. Some protesters claimed to have suffered minor injuries from stun grenades and tear gas used by the police.
The protests erupted after Azerbaijan launched what it called “counter-terrorism measures” against the ethnically-Armenian province of Nagorno-Karabakh earlier in the day. Azerbaijan claimed to be targeting a buildup of the Armenian military in the province, while Armenia denied deploying units to Nagorno-Karabakh and accused Azerbaijan of attempting “ethnic cleansing” of the Armenian enclave.
Protesters were heard chanting “Nikol is a traitor” in reference to Pashinyan’s statement earlier in the summer. Pashinyan had stated that he would recognize Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh if the human rights of its inhabitants were guaranteed. However, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has been accused of human rights abuses by Western observers.
Armenia, a former Soviet republic, is a member of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization. Russia mediated a ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2020, but Pashinyan has since shifted his focus towards the West. This has caused tensions between Armenia and Russia, with Pashinyan’s government sending aid money to Ukraine and announcing military exercises with the US. Additionally, Armenia has begun ratifying the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, a move that would obligate them to arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin if he were to visit.
With the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh escalating and Azerbaijani forces ignoring calls for a ceasefire, Pashinyan released a statement warning of a possible coup against his government. He pledged to uphold “law and order” and respond appropriately to any coup attempts.
The situation in Yerevan remains tense as the government and protesters continue to clash. The Armenian authorities must find a way to address the grievances of the protesters and de-escalate tensions in order to avoid further violence and instability.