Nikol Pashinyan brandishing hammer at campaign rally

Pashinyan Promises to ‘Cut off the Hand’ that Would Try to Oppose Syunik to Rest of Armenia

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YEREVAN (Arka, news.am) – Armenia’s acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan promised to “cut off the hand” that would try to oppose the southern province of Syunik to the rest of Armenia as he campaigned in the provincial town of Sisian on June 15 for the June 20 early elections to the National Assembly.

According to Pashinyan, some people perceive Syunik not as a homeland, but as “a customs terminal, a source of replenishment of their offshore accounts.” “These people are trying to oppose Syunik to the rest of Armenia,” he said.

During his speech, Pashinyan brandished a metal hammer tied with three-color ribbons – which in his view, symbolizes the “steel revolution,” the follow-up to the “Velvet Revolution” that brought him to power in 2018 May.

He was given the hammer as a gift on June 13 in Yeghvard, and later that day in Abovyan explained its significance as follows: “I received a gift in Yeghvard this morning. This is a ‘steel mandate’. I believe the citizen put it very correctly since the person who needs to be removed can be removed with this ‘steel mandate’, and the person can be nailed with this ‘steel mandate’ wherever nailing is necessary. However, this is first and foremost a symbol of construction, and we need to rebuild Armenia in terms of infrastructures, and we need to establish dictatorship of law and order with this ‘steel mandate’. During the elections, we need to establish the dictatorship of expression of free will of the people so that nobody tries to have an influence on that. Those who have tried, will be detained. Those who manage to escape, we will go after them with this ‘steel mandate’,” he said.

Meanwhile, after the leaders of Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan signed a statement on the cessation of all hostilities in Artsakh on November 9, 2020, more than 190 settlements in Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent seven districts were placed under the control of Azerbaijan.  As a result, the borders of the Syunik region in the south of Armenia (including the administrative center Kapan) appeared  to be in close proximity to the new borders of Azerbaijan, drawn during the Soviet time. Reports from Syunik say Azerbaijani military personnel steal the livestock of the local Armenian farmers. Human rights defender Arman Tatoyan has repeatedly raised the issue of creating a security zone along the line of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.

On April 20, 2021, Pashinyan left for an unexpected visit to Kapan (the administrative center of Syunik). On April 21, he visited the towns of Meghri and Agarak, where some angry residents greeted him with whistles and insults, accusing him of surrendering Artsakh and intending to sell Syunik. His motorcade hastily left Meghri for the capital Yerevan.

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Azerbaijani forces had advanced 3.5 kilometers into Armenia’s Syunik province early on May 12 and also breached two other sections of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in Sisian and Vardenis on May 13 under the pretext of ‘clarification of border.’ Some of them are still on Armenian territory.

Armenia has officially asked the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to take action against Azerbaijani incursions into its territory.

On May 25, an Armenian contract serviceman V. Khurshudyan was fatally wounded in a shootout that began after Azerbaijani troops fired shots at an Armenian military post near Verin Shorzha village.

On May 27, Azerbaijani troops advanced 800 meters into the Armenian territory surrounded and captured 6 Armenian servicemen who were carrying out engineering work to beef up the protection of the border in Gegharkunik province.

On the same day Armenia’s acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan suggested that international observers from Russia or other Minsk Group countries be deployed at Sotk-Khoznavar section on Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan. Speaking at a Security Council meeting later in the day Pashinyan said his proposal was prompted by the tension that has reached an explosive point in that section of the border.

He said his proposal is addressed to the international community and the government of Azerbaijan-Azerbaijan and Armenia must agree to pull back their troops from the border to their permanent deployment places, so that international observers from Russia or other OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing county (France or the United States) be deployed along the entire section of the border.

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