Thousands of Armenians took to the streets of the capital Yerevan again on Wednesday to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan following the agreement of a peace deal with Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Under the new agreement, brokered by Russia, the two sides will end the first conflict since the end of 1994 the Nagorno-Karabakh War, which killed more than 2,000 people on both sides. Azerbaijan will keep a large chunk of the Nagorno-Karabakh region and surrounding areas it captured during the latest conflict.
The deal, confirmed on Tuesday, has sparked a furious reaction from many Armenians, with thousands of people taking to the streets on Wednesday afternoon in defiance of martial law, filling Yerevan’s central Liberty Square and accusing Pashinyan of treason.
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Hundreds of protesters marched towards the country’s National Assembly on Tuesday following the announcement before scuffles broke out with police as they attempted to contain the gathering. Several individuals were detained, including opposition leader Gagik Tsarukian.
Hours after the ceasefire was announced on Monday, protesters stormed the parliament building, assaulting the speaker and looting Pashinyan’s office. All these protests were a violation of martial law, enforced by the government in September after the fighting broking out in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Despite agreeing to the deal, Pashinyan described it as “incredibly painful both for me and both for our people.” He added that he had taken the decision after “deep analyses of the combat situation and in discussion with best experts of the field,” after Azerbaijani forces achieved major battlefield gains, including the key strategic town of Shushi.
Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinian did not rule out the possibility of resignation but warned the opposition of implementing a “coup” against them.
Having brokered the deal, over 400 Russian troops, eight helicopters, and other military equipment were deployed to Nagorno-Karabakh as part of their “peacekeeping” mission.
According to Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian joint chiefs of staff, his forces have already taken control of the Lachin Corridor, a critical mountain area that links Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. He added that around 2,000 troops will eventually be deployed to the region, as well as 90 armored personnel carriers to guarantee the terms outlined under the agreement.