STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL) — Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Monday, June 4, called for an end to anti-government protests in Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) sparked by a violent dispute between security officers and other local residents.
Pashinyan made what he described as a “brotherly request” as about 200 people demonstrated in Stepanakert for a fourth day to demand the resignation of the heads of Artsakh’s two main law-enforcement agencies blamed for the violence.
The starting incident was a brawl that broke out outside a Stepanakert car wash on Friday, June 1, with two groups of men bitterly arguing and pushing and punching each other for as-yet unclear reasons. Several of them turned out to be officers of Karabakh’s National Security Service (NSS). There are indications that at least one other civilian participant in the fight was injured seriously.
The incident triggered a demonstration by angry Stepanakert residents who say that it is symptomatic of what they see as impunity enjoyed by members of security forces and their relatives. They blocked the town’s main avenue, demanding the resignation of the NSS and police chiefs. The street section has since been the scene of daily anti-government rallies.
Karabakh law-enforcement authorities arrested several individuals, including two NSS officers, in the immediate aftermath of the incident. Karabakh’s political leadership pledged to ensure an objective criminal investigation.
These assurances failed to satisfy the protesters, however. Their representatives twice met with Bako Sahakyan, the Karabakh president, over the weekend. Sahakyan is said to have told them late on Sunday that he is ready, in principle, to sack senior law-enforcement officials but will refrain from doing that now.