New Armenia PM sacks heads of police, security service

New Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan swept to power this week off the back of mass protests

Yerevan (AFP) – New Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who was swept to power this week on the back of popular protests, said Thursday he had sacked the heads of the country’s police and security service.

The country’s defence and finance ministers earlier said they would not serve in a new government, which has to be formed within a fortnight of the prime minister’s election. 

“I’ve just signed a statement to the president about relieving the police chief Vladimir Gasparyan and security service head Georgi Kutoyan of their duties,” the politician wrote on his Facebook page. 

Yerevan’s deputy police chief Valeri Osipyan, who took part in negotiations with the organisers of the recent street protests, was nominated to lead the country’s police force. 

Pashinyan underlined the symbolism of the appointment. 

“During the demonstrations, we were on a different side of the barricade from Valeri Osipyan. I decided… that we will be on the same side,” he wrote.

Artur Vanetsyan, who is currently head of the security services in the Armenian capital, was appointed to the national role.

“The National Security Service must perform a serious function in the fight against corruption, which we must wipe out very quickly from Armenia,” the prime minister said as he announced the personnel change.

Armenia’s parliament elected Pashinyan this week after he spearheaded weeks of mass protests against the ruling party, transforming the country’s political landscape. 

Critics accused longtime leader Serzh Sarkisian and his Republican party of corruption, being under the influence of powerful oligarchs and of failing to tackle widespread poverty.

The hugely popular Pashinyan had in recent weeks piled pressure on the Republicans through an unprecedented campaign of civil disobedience, leading to Sarkisian’s shock resignation, a week after he shifted to the newly-empowered role of prime minister after serving for 10 years as president. 

Pashinyan said ahead of the vote that he would work to eradicate corruption and ensure “a normal life in the country”.