Thousands continue to march in Armenia to demand PM's resignation

WION Web Team
Yerevan, Armenia Published: Feb 26, 2021, 07:23 PM(IST)

Protests in Yerevan Photograph:( AFP )

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Protesters flooded the streets of central Yerevan, waving Armenian flags and chanting anti-government slogans, hours before a planned meeting with the ex-Soviet country's president.

Several thousand opposition supporters continued to march through the capital of Armenia on Friday to demand Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan's resignation over his handling of last year's war with Azerbaijan.

Protesters flooded the streets of central Yerevan, waving Armenian flags and chanting anti-government slogans, hours before a planned meeting with the ex-Soviet country's president.

The small South Caucasus nation plunged Thursday into a fresh political crisis as Pashinyan defied calls to resign, accused the military of an attempted coup and rallied over 20,000 supporters in Yerevan.

The crisis spilled into a second day after Pashinyan's critics spent the night, then blocked streets near the parliament building in preparation for Friday's rally. 

The march led them to the presidency and then to the prime minister's residence, ahead of a meeting with President Armen Sarkisian at 15:40 local time (1140 GMT).

Pashinyan has said he is ready to start talks with the opposition to defuse tensions, but also threatened to arrest any opponents if they violate the law.

The prime minister has faced fierce criticism since he signed a peace deal brokered by Russia that ended the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian region that broke from Azerbaijan's control during a war in the early 1990s.

Fresh fighting erupted over the region in late September with Azerbaijani forces backed by ally Turkey making steady gains.

After six weeks of clashes and bombardments that claimed some 6,000 lives, a ceasefire agreement was signed that handed over significant territory to Azerbaijan and allowed for the deployment of Russian peacekeepers.

The agreement was seen as a national humiliation for many in Armenia, though Pashinyan has said he had no choice but to agree or see his country's forces suffer even bigger losses.

Armenia's military had backed Pashinyan for months, but on Thursday the military's general staff joined calls for him to step down, saying in a statement that he and his cabinet were "not capable of taking adequate decisions".

France, meanwhile, on Friday urged talks based on the legitimacy of President Armen Sarkisian, who holds a largely ceremonial role but has vowed to resolve this crisis peacefully, and Pashinyan himself.

(with inputs from agencies)

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