Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has warned of an attempted military coup against him after the army demanded he and his government resign.
Mr Pashinyan has faced protests and calls to resign after what his critics say was the disastrous handling of a six-week conflict between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh in November last year.
He has rejected calls to step down, saying he takes responsibility for what happened but now needs to ensure his country’s security.
The immediate trigger for the standoff was Mr Pashinyan’s decision to oust the first deputy chief of the military’s General Staff, a group of the armed forces’ top commanders.
In response, the General Staff called for Mr Pashinyan’s resignation — but the Prime Minister doubled down and dismissed the chief of the General Staff.
He described the military’s statement as a “military coup attempt” and urged troops to only listen to his orders.
Mr Pashinyan blames Russia for defeat
Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan stated that Karabakh was lost because of Russia. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated that the loss of Karabakh is entirely Russia’s fault. The reason for everything, according to Pashinyan, is the supply by the Russian side of low-quality and ineffective weapons, in particular, Iskander operational-tactical missile systems was total failure.
According to the Armenian news publication 1in.am, the key issue is precisely the quality of Russian weapons purchased by Armenian military.
The question is what was the quality of the supplied weapons to Armenia. And in that sense, Nikol Pashinyan’s statement is significant months ago, against the background of the statement of the former head of the General Staff of Armenia, General Artak Davtyan, after the end of the war. Responding to another general Movses Hakobyan’s accusation of changing the 2017 arms purchase plan after 2018, which Hakobyan eventually denied, stating that the plan had not changed since the revolution, General Davtyan made a statement that was received at the time.
Crisis In Armenia
The crisis has its roots in Armenia’s humiliating defeat in heavy fighting with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh that erupted in late September and lasted 44 days.
A Russian-brokered agreement ended the conflict in which the Azerbaijani army routed Armenian forces — but only after more than 6,000 people died on both sides.
Some 2,000 Russian peacekeeping troops are now deployed to the region.
Mr Pashinyan has defended the peace deal as a painful but necessary move to prevent Azerbaijan from overrunning the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region, which lies within Azerbaijan but was under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994.
Opposition groups have dismissed that argument.
On Thursday, opposition demonstrators swarmed the streets of the Armenian capital, chanting “Nikol, you traitor!” and “Nikol, resign!” They paralysed traffic all around Yerevan.
Despite the simmering public anger over the military defeat, Mr Pashinyan has maneuvered to shore up his rule and the protests died down amid the winter’s cold. But the opposition demonstrations resumed with new vigour this week — and then came the spat with top officers.
Mr Pashinyan fired the deputy chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General Tiran Khachatryan, earlier this week after he derided the Prime Minister’s claim that just 10 per cent of Russia-supplied Iskander missiles that Armenia used in the conflict exploded on impact.
The General Staff responded on Thursday with a statement demanding Mr Pashinyan’s resignation and warned the government against trying to use force against the opposition demonstrators.
Immediately after the statement, Mr Pashinyan dismissed the General Staff chief, Colonel General Onik Gasparyan.
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