Protest in Yerevan on September 19

Armenian Government Faces Angry Protests Over Karabakh Fighting

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By Naira Bulghadarian

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Riot police clashed late on September 19 with angry protesters who gathered outside the main government building in Yerevan to demand Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s resignation following Azerbaijan’s large-scale military attack on Nagorno-Karabakh.

The protesters, who included refugees from Karabakh, blamed Pashinyan for the Azerbaijani offensive and demanded that Armenia intervene to prevent a mass killing and deportation of Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian population.

Some participants of the spontaneous rally scuffled with security forces guarding the prime minister’s office located in Yerevan’s central Republic Square. The latter fired stun grenades to try to push the crowd away from the building.

The Armenian Ministry of Health said that several protesters and police officers were injured and hospitalized as a result.

Armenia’s Investigative Committee launched a criminal investigation into calls for violent overthrow of the “constitutional order” which it said were made by some of the little-known speakers at the rally. The committee said it made an unspecified number of arrests in connection with such calls.

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It warned that law-enforcement authorities will counter any attempts to topple the Armenian government by force. The National Security Service issued a similar warning in a separate statement.

Appealing to Armenians earlier in the day, Pashinyan claimed that “external and internal forces” are trying to “draw Armenia into the military escalation” in Karabakh and calling for a “coup d’état” in the country. He did not name them.

Pashinyan’s critics believe that he emboldened Baku to tighten its blockade of Karabakh and then take the military action with his decision to recognize Azerbaijani sovereignty over the Armenian-populated region. The prime minister insisted on Tuesday that he “did not give anyone a mandate to carry out ethnic cleansing in Karabakh.”

The rally continued peacefully at Republic Square. Andranik Tevanyan, an opposition politician who joined it after the first scuffles, urged the demonstrators to camp out in the sprawling square and keep protesting there until Pashinyan agrees to step down.

“Nikol Pashinyan is the biggest threat to Armenia’s security,” declared Tevanyan. ”His exit is the only way to ensure the security of Armenia and Artsakh.”

The police intervened again at midnight to stop the protesters from pitching tents there. The crowd tried to push back, chanting “Nikol traitor!”

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