Police arrested hundreds on Monday, May 27.

Hundreds Arrested At Protests Against Armenian Government

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By Shoghik Galstian and Naira Bulghadarian

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Police made nearly 300 arrests on Monday, May 27, as Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan and his supporters continued to demonstrate in Yerevan to demand Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s resignation.

The protesters were detained as they blocked streets in the city center in the morning to step up the pressure on Pashinyan. There were reports of similar blockages of highways outside the Armenian capital. The police used force to unblock them as well.

The chief of the national police, Aram Hovannisyan, accused the protesters of “behaving like thugs” as he oversaw the crackdown in downtown Yerevan.

The Armenian Interior Ministry put the total number of detained protesters at 284 in the afternoon. A ministry spokesperson said 278 of them have already been released without charge.

Archbishop Galstanyan speaks on Monday.

The detainees included two opposition lawmakers affiliated with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) party. Footage posted on social media showed members of a special police squad punching and swearing at one of them, Ashot Simonian, outside the Dashnaktsutyun headquarters.

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In a statement, Dashnaktsutyun accused the policemen of acting like “street hooligans” and demanded criminal proceedings against them. The Interior Ministry said it has launched an internal inquiry into the incident.

Meanwhile, Galstanyan again marched through the city center together with a hundred supporters. He announced afterwards that they will head to a World War One memorial 50 kilometers west of Yerevan to spend the night there and celebrate the next morning the 106th anniversary of the establishment of a short-lived independent Armenian republic.

Crowds in Yerevan on Monday

Official ceremonies to mark the public holiday called Republic Day have traditionally been held at the Sardarapat memorial. It was not clear whether Galstanyan planned to try to prevent Pashinyan and other top state officials from visiting the site on Tuesday.

The outspoken archbishop of the Armenian Apostolic Church announced the latest “disobedience” actions on Sunday as he again rallied tens of thousands of supporters in Yerevan as part of his opposition-backed attempts to oust Pashinyan. The massive crowd supported his candidacy for the post of prime minister which appears to enjoy the backing of a wide range of opposition groups.

The 53-year-old archbishop accepted the “nomination,” saying that he has asked the supreme head of the church, Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II, to “freeze my spiritual service.” Karekin’s office reported on Monday that Galstanyan has been relieved of his “ecclesiastical and administrative” duties while retaining his episcopal rank.

Galstanyan has until now headed the church diocese encompassing Armenia’s northern Tavush province. He emerged last month as the leader of angry protests in several local villages against Pashinyan’s controversial decision to cede adjacent border areas to Azerbaijan.

Pashinyan has claimed that the territorial concessions are necessary for preventing another war with Azerbaijan. His political enemies and other critics dismiss the explanation, saying that the land handover will only create additional security risks for not only Tavush but Armenia as a whole.

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