YEREVAN — Opposition supporters have blocked streets in the Armenian capital after they launched a “civil disobedience” campaign to force Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian to step down over last month’s cease-fire deal with Azerbaijan that ended fighting over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The demonstrations come after Pashinian ignored a deadline of midday on December 8 set by a coalition of 16 opposition parties for him to quit his post.
Chanting slogans such as “Nikol, traitor!” and “Armenia without Nikol!” groups of protesters blocked traffic across Yerevan and paralyzed the city’s subway.
A number of participants were detained by police officers.
Rallies were also held in Gyumri, Vanadzor, and other cities across Armenia.
“As you can see, Nikol Pashinian has not tendered his resignation,” Ishkhan Saghatelian, a leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation party, said in a video address to opposition supporters in Yerevan.
“Therefore…Armenia’s citizens have a legitimate right to take peaceful civil disobedience actions to protest and make their demands heard,” Saghatelian added, urging security forces not to “execute Nikol Pashinian’s illegal orders and use force against the people.”
“Nikol, you will have to go in any case. Leave without upheaval…. Your departure is vital for our people and state,” he added.
Pashinian, who swept to power amid nationwide protests in 2018, has come under fire since agreeing to a Moscow-brokered deal with Azerbaijan that took effect on November 10, ending six weeks of fierce fighting in and around the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
His opponents want him to quit over what they say was his disastrous handling of the conflict that handed Azerbaijan swaths of territory ethnic Armenians had controlled since the 1990s.
Pashinian has said he has no plans to quit, insisting that he is responsible for ensuring national security and stabilizing the former Soviet republic.
In a blow to the embattled prime minister, the head of Armenia’s Apostolic Church, Catholicos Garegin II, called for Pashinian’s resignation “to avoid tragic developments” and pointed to “mounting tensions in society.”
Some 10,000 demonstrators rallied in central Yerevan on December 5 in the protest movement’s biggest protest so far.
Under the Russian-brokered truce deal, Azerbaijan took back control over parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and all surrounding territories.
The agreement was a blow to Yerevan-backed ethnic Armenian forces who controlled nearly all of Nagorno-Karabakh as well as seven surrounding areas since a 1994 cease-fire ended all-out war. The region is recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but the ethnic Armenians who make up most of the population reject Azerbaijani rule.