Artur Vanetsyan

Political Tension and Threats of Violence Increase in Armenia, Officials Resign from Posts

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YEREVAN – While protesting continued in the streets of Yerevan over the last few days concerning the terms of the Karabakh ceasefire, four leaders of an alleged plot to assassinate Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan were arrested on November 14. However, the next day at least one of them, Artur Vanetsyan, was released. Later the same day, a Facebook statement by Pashinyan led to the resignation of several members parliament from his party and the chief of staff of Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan.

Prior to this arrest, on November 12 the Special Investigation Service put Vanetsyan and 9 other opposition politicals under preliminary arrest, including Gagik Tsarukyan of the Prosperous Armenia party and Armenian Revolutionary Federation leader Ishkhan Saghatelyan for organizing an illegal meeting, but on November 13 they were all released.

Vanetsyan, former director of Armenia’s National Security Service, is leader of the Fatherland opposition party. The other suspects in the plot included Vahram Baghdasaryan, former head of the Republican Party parliamentary faction, Ashot Avagyan of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, and Col. Ashot Minasyan, commander of a volunteer military group during the recent war.

Pashinyan wrote on November 15 on Facebook that he viewed dozens of frontline soldiers’ videos that day. He exclaimed, “Boys, you are correct. I am awaiting you in Yerevan. Finally to solve the issues of those whining under the walls.”

This statement was interpreted as a call to use force to solve the domestic political unrest. In turn, members of his parliamentary My Step faction declared on social media that they were going to resign, including Gayane Abrahamyan and MP Taguhi Tovmasyan. MP Lusine Badalyan declared she would lay down her mandate if My Step did not take immediate action concerning this situation. Furthermore, Varak Sisserian, chief of staff of Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan, declared on Facebook that after Pashinyan’s statement, he is resigning from his position and Pashinyan’s Civil Contract Party. On November 13, Sisserian noted on Facebook that he and his family received a threat from “Yergate Prountsk” and asked that the National Security Service look into this.

To understand the background better, on November 10, President of the National Assembly Ararat Mirzoyan was beaten badly by a mob searching for Prime Minister Pashinyan and had to undergo surgery. He was said to be doing better, though requiring a second surgery, by November 13.

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On November 12, MP Vardan Atabekyan declared on Facebook that he was resigning from My Step after learning only through the media of the Karabakh agreement.

Pashinyan on November 16, again on Facebook, gave an interview in which he gave his own interpretation to his words of the prior day. He said that he was positively responding to the requests of various soldiers who requested to meet with him after they return from the front. This would, he said he meant, end the accusations of treachery that had been directed at governmental and military leaders. He added that no soldiers were allowed back into Yerevan with their military arms.

On November 16, Deputy Minister of the Environment Irina Ghaplanyan submitted her resignation.

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