Riot police detain an opposition protester in Yerevan, May 17, 2022

Hundreds Arrested As Armenian Opposition Keeps Up Protests


By Artak Khulian

YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Armenian police arrested more than 400 people on Tuesday, May 17, as opposition supporters again blocked roads across Yerevan in continuing protests aimed at forcing Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to resign.

Groups of protesters began the blockages at 8 am local time in an attempt to disrupt traffic and step up pressure on Pashinyan’s government. Opposition leaders claimed to have blocked more than 50 streets in various parts of the capital.

Riot police stepped in to unblock the streets, clashing with protesters and detaining many of them. The police reported a total of 414 arrests in the afternoon, a daily record high since the start of the Armenian opposition’s “civil disobedience” campaign on May 1.

The protesters included members of the Armenian parliament affiliated with its two opposition groups leading the campaign. Security forces tried to detain one of them, Tadevos Avetisyan, but let him go after finding out that he is a parliament deputy.

“This is not policing. This is hooliganism,” charged Lilit Galstyan, another opposition lawmaker taking part in the protests.

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Some citizens also condemned the police actions as they watched the dramatic scenes in the city center. They argued that the protests are peaceful.

“Nothing [wrong] was happening,” one woman told RFE / RL’s Armenian Service. ”But they just rounded up [protesters] and took them away.”

The authorities insisted that the police restored public order and did not use disproportionate forces.

Mobile phone videos posted on social media showed dozens of defiant opposition supporters chanting anti-Pashinyan slogans inside a police bus and a police station in Yerevan. They and all other detainees were expected to be released a few hours later.

Ishkhan Saghatelyan, an opposition leader, urged supporters to leave the streets at 11:30 a.m. and gather in the country France Square, the site of an opposition tent camp, in the evening.

“We have fully accomplished the task set by us,” Saghatelyan said in a video message broadcast on Facebook. ”We have demonstrated that people are in control of the situation.”

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Saghatelyan said earlier that the opposition objective is to create “diarchy” that would make Pashinyan’s resignation inevitable.

The prime minister and his political allies have rejected the opposition demands for his resignation fueled by his recent statements on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

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