Thousands protest in Armenia as political talks called off

Thousands protest in Armenia as political talks called off
The Associated Press

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Several thousand protesters took to the streets of the Armenian capital on Wednesday morning after talks between the opposition and the acting prime minister were called off.

Protest leader Nikol Pashinian had been expected to sit down for talks with acting Prime Minister Karen Karapetian to discuss political transition after Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan abruptly stepped down on Monday amid massive anti-government protests.

Karapetian is an ally of Sargsyan, who ruled Armenia for 10 years. The opposition insists that he step down soon to make way for a new premier appointed by a new parliament. The talks on Wednesday were supposed to discuss that transition.

Karapetian said in a statement on Wednesday that the talks with Pashinian were canceled after the opposition made unspecified “unilateral demands.”

Pashinian called on his supporters to take to the streets in protest.

About 5,000 people marched in the center of the capital, Yerevan, blocking traffic and chanting “Join us!”

“Authorities won’t step down, they are just dragging their feet,” said 24-year-old protester Garik Migranyan. “But we will make them do that. We are the power.”

Police troops supported government buildings and the headquarters of the ruling Republican Party. An armored vehicle was spotted nearby.

“We will not allow authorities to steal our victory,” Pashinian told supporters Wednesday. “There will be more of us here with every day until we take power.”

Pashinian said he and his allies would boycott the snap parliamentary election if a member of the ruling Republican Party remains prime minister.

Pashinian earlier said “a people’s candidate” should replace Karapetian and said he would be willing to become premier if people support him.

Former Prime Minister and President Sargsyan said in a statement he is concerned about the tensions in the country and would launch talks with pro-government and ruling parties in search of compromise.

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Nataliya Vasilyeva contributed to this report from Moscow.

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