Fri, 07 May 2021

YEREVAN -- Thousands of opposition supporters have marched through Yerevan demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian as tensions remained high in the Caucasus country a day after the premier claimed an 'attempted coup' by senior military officers.

Throngs of people waving Armenian flags and chanting anti-government slogans took to the streets of the capital on February 26 to vent their anger at Pashinian over his handling of last year's war with Azerbaijan, which many view as a national humiliation.

Armenia was plunged on February 25 into a fresh political crisis that prompted international concern as Pashinian defied the senior officers' call for his resignation, accusing the military in turn of an attempted coup and rallying thousands of his own supporters in Yerevan.

On February 26, former Prime Minister Vazgen Manukian, who has been put forward by the opposition as a replacement for Pashinian, called on all Armenians to join the protest.

'The people must take to the street and express their will so that we can avoid bloodshed and turmoil,' he told participants at the rally in downtown Yerevan. Many opposition protesters spent the night outside parliament, where they have set up camps and barricades.

'Either we get rid of them,' Manukian said, referring to Pashinian and his allies who control parliament, 'or we will lose Armenia.'

The marchers walked to the presidency and then to Pashinian's residence ahead of a meeting with President Armen Sarkisian later in the afternoon.

Pashinian has faced mounting protests and calls from the opposition for his resignation following a six-week conflict between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh last year.

A Russian-brokered cease-fire deal Pashinian signed in November brought an end to 44 days of fierce fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, where Armenian forces suffered territorial and battlefield losses from Azerbaijan's Turkish-backed military.

In a sign of Moscow's growing concern about the developments in Armenia, the Kremlin on February 26 reiterated that Armenia should comply with agreements reached with Azerbaijan. But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov sought to calm fears, telling a briefing that he saw 'no threat' of a breakdown of the Nagorno-Karabakh deal.

Peskov's statement came a day after President Vladimir Putin called for calm during a phone call with Pashinian. Russia is a key ally of Armenia, which has a military base in the country.

The prime minister, who addressed some 20,000 supporters in the center of Yerevan on February 25, said Armenians would not allow the armed forces to interfere after top military brass joined opposition demands for his resignation.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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