People attend an anti-governmenrt rally in Yerevan, May 9, 2024

Armenian Protest Leader Demands Pashinyan’s Resignation

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YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am) — An outspoken archbishop leading protests against the Armenian government’s territorial concessions to Azerbaijan demanded that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan resign as he rallied tens of thousands of supporters in Yerevan on Thursday, May 9.

Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan held what appeared to be the biggest antigovernment demonstration in Armenia in years five days after activists led by him began marching to the capital from Kirants, a village in the northern Tavush province that was the epicenter of the protests.

Kirants and three other Tavush villages are adjacent to border areas which Pashinyan’s government wants to cede to Azerbaijan in what it calls a demarcation of first section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. Many local residents are strongly opposed to the handover, saying that it would isolate their communities and leave them vulnerable to Azerbaijani attacks.

Galstanyan, who leads the Tavush Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, again condemned “this illegal unilateral process” when he addressed the massive crowd that gathered in Yerevan’s central Republic Square.

“We have come here to demand answers from the head of Armenia’s government who repeatedly visited our communities and lied, misled, and then bullied and threatened people,” he said. “We have come to demand answers for those threats.”

Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan greets supporters rallying in Yerevan, May 9, 2024

The clergyman backed by the church went on to accuse Pashinyan’s administration of incompetence and misrule and blame it for Azerbaijan’s recapture of Nagorno-Karabakh.

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“This government has completely failed in the country’s governance and broken up its entire security system,” Galstanyan charged before giving Pashinyan one hour to step down. He said he is ready to meet the premier and “discuss all conditions of the resignation.”

After Pashinyan predictably ignored the demand, Galstanyan called for a parliamentary vote of no confidence in the prime minister and said he will meet lawmakers to discuss the possibility of “organizing that process.”

After a brief conversation with some of them held moments later, he said the two opposition groups represented in the Armenian parliament pledged to initiate a motion of censure “in the coming days.” The parliament is controlled by Pashinyan’s Civil Contract party.

Galstanyan also announced that the protest movement led by him will start on Friday morning “peaceful actions of civil disobedience” in and outside Yerevan. He said he will spend the night in the sprawling square.

Earlier on Thursday, Armenia’s police and National Security Service warned the protest leaders against taking “actions violating public order.”

Pashinyan, whose political allies have attacked the archbishop for the last few weeks, on Tuesday, May 7, accused them of trying to provoke another war with Azerbaijan in hopes of toppling him. He claimed that Azerbaijan will invade Armenia if he bows to their demands to halt the land handover.

Galstanyan and the Armenia opposition have dismissed his claims. Opposition leaders say Pashinyan himself is encouraging Baku to demand more territory from Armenia and use force for that purpose.

The country’s main opposition forces have welcomed and even joined the Tavush protests. But they do not seem to be directly involved in the campaign led by Galstanyan.

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