YEREVAN (AFP) – Police in Armenia on Tuesday (May 3) detained more than 200 anti-government protesters as opposition parties increase pressure on Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan over his handling of a territorial dispute with Azerbaijan.
Protests erupted in Yerevan on Sunday with the opposition demanding Pashinyan’s resignation accusing him of plotting to cede to Baku all the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Demonstrations continued on Monday and there were chaotic scenes on Tuesday in central Yerevan where police detained dozens of people as groups of protesters blocked traffic on all main streets.
The country’s interior ministry said in a statement that “206 demonstrators were detained” in Yerevan and several provincial cities.
These are the worst protests since elections last September, highlighting continued bitterness over Pashinyan’s leadership during a war in 2020.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a decades-long dispute over Karabakh, Azerbaijan’s Armenian-populated region.
The enclave was at the centre of a six-week war in 2020 that claimed more than 6,500 lives before it ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement.
Opposition leader and parliament vice speaker Ishkhan Saghatelyan said: “Pashinyan is a traitor and permanent street protests, which are mounting, will force him to resign.” He announced a protest rally for Tuesday evening in Yerevan’s central Square of France where thousands rallied against Pashinyan on Sunday and Monday.
One of the protesters, 57-year-old blacksmith Sergei Hovhannisyan, said: “Nikol must go, he will go, because he is a symbol of defeat and Armenia has no future with such a leader.
“He is ready to give away Karabakh for which we have shed our blood,” he told AFP.
Opposition parties 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”.
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.