Armenian opposition calls Pashinyan to step down
The signing of the cease-fire agreement has sent a shock wave across Armenian society not only at home but also in the vast diaspora. It has resulted in mass anti-government demonstrations and detainment of several opposition leaders.
„Dear Compatriots, sisters and brothers. I have made a very, very difficult decision for myself and for all of us. I have signed a statement with Presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan on ending the Karabakh war at 01:00 am. The text of the statement that has already been published is unspeakably painful for me personally and for our people. I made that decision as a result of an in-depth analysis of the military situation and the assessment of the people who know the situation the best. Also based on a belief that this is the best possible solution to the current situation. I will give a detailed message about all this in the coming days,“ said Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan to the public while announcing the Russia-mediated agreement.
However, opposition forces describe the agreement as capitulation and blame the prime minister for it. The unfavourable development of the situation at the frontline has mobilized the Armenian opposition already on Monday. Following the fall of the strategically important city of Shusha (arm.: Shushi), 17 opposition parties, including those involved in governing the country in recent decades, have called for Pashinyan to resign.
Even the Armenian President Armen Sarkissian has announced that he only learned about the agreement from the media. Chaos erupted in the country, with an enraged mob breaking into the parliament and government office buildings at night. The Speaker of the Parliament, Ararat Mirzoyan, had to be hospitalized after the protesters pulled him out of the car and beat him.
Another mass anti-government rally of approximately 2000, organized on November 11 in front of Yerevan’s opera house, was abruptly put to an end by the security forces. Officers forced their way through the throng and roughly dragged away several of the organizers as the crowd chanted „Nikol – traitor!“.
During the demonstration, Eduard Sharmazanov of the Republican Party; Garnik Isagulyan, head of the National Security party; and Ruben Melikyan, the former human rights ombudsman of Nagorno Karabakh and now head of a legal-aid NGO in Armenia have been all detained. „Separately, other prominent figures were reportedly taken in for questioning to the National Security Service, including the leader of Prosperous Armenia, Gagik Tsarukyan; former president Serzh Sargsyan; and the NSS’s own former head, Artur Vanetsyan,” writes Joshua Kucera for Eurasianet.
Meanwhile, the prime minister also reminded the opposition of their share on the defeat. „We must prepare for revenge. We have not dealt properly with the corrupt, oligarchic scoundrels, those who robbed this country, stole soldiers‘ food, stole soldiers‘ weapons,“ said Pashinyan in the wake of mass protests.
De facto president of Nagorno Karabakh Arayik Harutyunyan described the dire situation in which Armenian forces were at the front. According to him, the fighting moved less than two kilometres from the de facto capital of Nagorno Karabakh, Stepanakert, and if the agreement was not signed quickly, the Armenians would „lose all Arcach (arm. Nagorno Karabakh).“ Harutyunyan added that although Armenian forces had managed to defend themselves against the Azerbaijani drones for some time, UAV’s had again caused them enormous losses in the last days of the war.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as well has accused the Armenian opposition of speculations regarding the agreement on November 12. „There should not have been any illusions that the seven regions around Nagorno Karabakh could forever remain in the position they were one, one and a half, or two months ago,“ said Lavrov. He then stressed that „the unblocking of all communications – transport, economic – should play a hugely positive role in the revival of this region, including for the recovery of the Armenian economy, which suffered more than others due to the termination of trade and transport links with Azerbaijan and Turkey“.