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Armenian police arrest dozens of protesters calling for PM Pashinyan to resign

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Armenian police detain opposition protesters in Yerevan, Armenia, on May 3, 2022.

Armenian police have arrested dozens of protesters who rallied in the streets of Yerevan to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan over his handling of a territorial dispute with Azerbaijan.

Local authorities said 49 protesters were detained on Thursday. Television footage showed officers grabbing protesters and dragging them into vans.

Armenia’s national security service said in a statement on Wednesday that the organizers of rallies were planning to incite demonstrators to seize parliament, to destabilize the country and undermine its security and public order.

The demonstrations have been ongoing since Sunday, with thousands of opposition supporters blocking streets in the city center to force Pashinyan, 46, to resign.

The embattled premier is facing heavy criticism for agreeing to a ceasefire with Azerbaijan after a six-week war in 2020 when Armenian troops were driven out of Azerbaijani territories outside Karabakh.

Opposition leaders have accused him of plotting to cede to Azerbaijan the entire Karabakh region, an enclave internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but controlled by ethnic Armenians since the 1990s when Azerbaijanis fled their homes following a war.

Opposition leader Ishkhan Saghatelian earlier said in the course of demonstrations that “Pashinian is a traitor, and permanent street protests, which are mounting, will force him to resign.” 

“The more people are detained, the greater the number of protesters. Yerevan has already taken to the streets,” Saghatelian said.

Pashinyan hit back at the opposition last month saying that the international community had urged Armenia to “lower the bar” on the Karabakh region.

Azerbaijan last month announced its preparedness to hold negotiations on a peace treaty with Armenia, under the condition that Yerevan renounces any claim to its territory.

The Armenian premier has publicly stated that the elements proposed by Azerbaijan are acceptable to Yerevan but has insisted that he will not sign any peace deal without consulting ethnic Armenians in Karabakh.

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