YEREVAN, March 1. /ARKA/. Thousands of Armenians from around the country have rallied today in Republic Square in downtown Yerevan to show their support for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan as an alliance of more than a dozen of opposition parties has rallied its supporters in central Baghramyan Avenue to renew their calls for Pashinyan and his government to step down.
Pashinyan has been facing opposition demands to resign since he signed a peace deal in November with Azerbaijani and Russian leaders to end the 44-day war in Nagorno-Karabakh that claimed thousands of young lives, and saw Azerbaijan reclaim control over large parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas that had been held by Armenian forces for more than a quarter of a century.
The standoff has intensified after Pashinyan fired a deputy chief of the army’s general staff Tiran Khachatryan who reportedly laughed off his claim that only 10% of Russia-supplied Iskander missiles that Armenia used in the conflict exploded.
After Khachatryan’s sacking the chief of the army staff Onik Gasparyan and more than 40 other high-ranking army officers signed under a statement demanding Pashinyan’s resignation. Pashinyan reiterated by issuing an order to sack Gasparyan and called the demand as attempted coup.
However, Armenia’s largely ceremonial president, Armen Sarkissian refused to sign it and sent back to Pashinyan’s office. “Political struggle must not go beyond the bounds of the law, it should not lead to shocks and instability,” he said in a statement.
Pashinyan quickly resubmitted the demand warning that the president could be impeached if he fails to endorse the move.
Today’s rallies coincide with the anniversary of the deaths of 10 people who were killed during clashes between riot police and thousands of protesters contesting the result of a presidential election on March 1, 2008.
“There will be no new March 1sts in Armenia,” Pashinyan said Saturday when asking his supporters together today in Republic Square. “Regardless of our political views and positions, we are all brothers and sisters.” -0-