Nikol Pashinyan rallies supporters after military calls on him to step down amid anger at Nagorno-Karabakh defeat
The Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, has accused the armed forces of an attempted coup against his government after top military officers signed a letter calling him to resign.
Tensions between Pashinyan and the military erupted into open conflict on Thursday as the chief of the armed forces general staff, Onik Gasparyan, and other senior commanders accused the prime minister of bringing Armenia to “the brink of collapse”.
In response, Pashinyan dismissed Gasparyan and called his own supporters to rally in Yerevan’s Republic Square, the site of the popular revolution that brought him to power three years ago. A video broadcast showed Pashinyan in a suit arriving at the square on Thursday and addressing his supporters through a bullhorn, with counter-protesters also present.
There have been no reports of the military being mobilised to seize government buildings or otherwise unseat Pashinyan. However, discontent has grown against the prime minister over Armenia’s defeat in a six-week war with Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh last year. As part of a Russian-brokered ceasefire, Armenia was forced to make painful concessions to Azerbaijan, handing over towns and villages that it had won in a war after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, but populated by ethnic Armenians.
Opponents of the ceasefire called it a capitulation and stormed parliament and Pashinyan’s residence the night it was signed. Protests have simmered since and Armenia has been in a deadlock, with the administration paralysed but the prime minister ignoring calls for snap elections.
Earlier this week, Pashinyan had dismissed Tiran Khacharyan, Gasparyan’s first deputy, for ridiculing the prime minister’s claims that Russian-supplied Iskander missiles used in the conflict mostly failed to explode on contact.The ceasefire agreement with Azerbaijan comes with great risks for ArmeniaDale Berning SawaRead more
In response, Gasparyan, along with his deputies and other senior commanders, signed an open letter on Thursday saying: “The prime minister and the government are no longer able to make reasonable decisions in this critical and fatal situation for the Armenian people. Due to the current situation, the Armenian armed forces demand the resignation of the prime minister and the government, at the same time warning to refrain from using force against the people whose children died defending the homeland and Artsakh [the Armenian word for its Nagorno-Karabakh territories]”.
The prime minister reportedly responded with Gasparyan’s dismissal and called his supporters to the streets. “I consider the statement of the general headquarters as an attempted military coup,” Pashinyan wrote in a statement on Facebook. “I invite all our supporters to Republic Square right now. I will be going live to the public soon.”