Opposition parties in Armenia vowed Monday to stage mass protests and unseat Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, accusing him of plotting to give away a disputed region to arch-foe Azerbaijan.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a territorial dispute since the 1990s over Azerbaijan’s Armenian-populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The mountainous enclave was at the center of a six-week war in 2020 that claimed more than 6,500 lives before it ended with a Russian-brokered cease-fire agreement.
Opposition parties now accuse Pashinyan of plans to give away all of Karabakh to Azerbaijan after he told lawmakers last month that the “international community calls on Armenia to scale down demands on Karabakh.”
“We are launching a popular protest movement to force Pashinyan to resign,” parliament vice speaker and opposition leader Ishkhan Saghatelyan told AFP on Monday.
“He is a traitor, he has lied to the people,” he said, accusing the 46-year-old leader of wanting to hand over the contested region to Azerbaijan. “He has no popular mandate to do so.”
Saghatelyan said an opposition rally would be held in the capital Yerevan on Monday evening, saying “protests will not stop until Pashinyan goes.”
Public transport was disrupted in Yerevan on Monday morning as small groups of protesters attempted to block traffic in the city center.
Police intervened, briefly detaining dozens of protesters.
The Union of Journalists, a media advocacy group, criticized police tactics as heavy-handed, saying there were several instances of officers punching journalists who covered opposition protests.
On Sunday, several thousand protesters rallied in central Yerevan to demand Pashinyan’s resignation. Under the Moscow-brokered deal, Armenia ceded swathes of territory it had controlled for decades and Russia deployed some 2,000 peacekeepers to oversee the truce.
The pact was seen in Armenia as a national humiliation and sparked weeks of anti-government protests, leading Pashinyan to call snap parliamentary polls which his party, Civil Contract, won last September.
Ethnic Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The ensuing conflicts claimed around 30,000 lives.—AFP