YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan faced protests by angry residents of Armenia’s southeastern Syunik province as he visited it on Monday, December 21, following further Armenian troop withdrawals resulting from the Russian-brokered ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The protests forced Pashinyan to cut short his visit.
Syunik borders the Zangelan and Kubatli districts southwest of Karabakh which were mostly recaptured by Azerbaijan during the war. Parts of the districts close to the provincial capital Kapan and other communities remained under Armenian control until last week.
Armenian army units and local militias completed their withdrawal from those areas at the weekend despite protests staged by many local residents. The latter say that they can no longer feel safe because Azerbaijani forces will now be stationed dangerously close to their communities.
The troop redeployments also raised questions about the safety of a road connecting Kapan to another provincial town, Goris. Some of its sections straddle the Soviet-era Armenian-Azerbaijani border.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry and National Security Service (NSS) insisted over the weekend that the road, which is also part of the country’s vital transport link with Iran, will remain open for traffic.