A crowd of demonstrators attempted to break into government buildings, calling Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan a “traitor”
Demonstrators in the Armenian capital of Yerevan have attempted to storm government buildings, according to reports from the scene. With Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan warning of a potential “coup,” police held back the crowd and reportedly used stun grenades.
Video footage obtained by RT showed ranks of police officers forming a cordon around the cabinet building on Tuesday afternoon, as an angry crowd pelted them with bottles. The building’s glass doors were damaged, and footage shared on social media showed some members of the crowd punching and kicking police officers as they attempted to breach the cordon.
The police reportedly used stun grenades and smoke or tear gas on the crowd, with some protesters claiming to have suffered minor injuries.
BREAKING: In Yerevan, clashes have broken out between gathered citizens and the police near the Government building.
The participants of the protest are demanding the immediate resignation of the government, led by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, whom they accuse of betrayal,… pic.twitter.com/OCIdYdUWu0
— 301🇦🇲 (@301arm) September 19, 2023
The protests broke out after Azerbaijan launched what it calls “counter-terrorism measures” against the ethnically-Armenian province of Nagorno-Karabakh earlier on Tuesday. Baku claims that it is targeting a buildup of the Armenian military in the province, while Yerevan denies deploying units to Nagorno-Karabakh and accuses Azerbaijan of attempting to carry out an “ethnic cleansing” of the Armenian enclave.
Protesters could be heard chanting “Nikol is a traitor” in several video clips, likely a reference to Pashinyan’s statement earlier this summer that he would recognize Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh, if Baku were to guarantee the human rights of its inhabitants. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has promised to do so, but has previously referred to Aremenians as “not even worthy of being servants,” and is considered a human rights abuser by Western observers.
Armenia is a former Soviet republic, and is a member of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization. Russia mediated a ceasefire to a large-scale conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020, but Pashinyan has since turned his back on Moscow and made diplomatic overtures to the West. In recent months, his government has sent aid money to Ukraine, announced military exercises with the US, and begun ratifying the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which would place the country under obligation to arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin if he were to travel there.
With the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh under artillery fire and Azerbaijani forces apparently not heeding provincial officials’ call for a ceasefire, Pashinyan released a statement on Tuesday afternoon warning that a coup could be launched against his government.
“As expected, various statements come from different places, up to calls for staging of a coup in Armenia,” Pashinyan stated, pledging to uphold “law and order” and react to the alleged “coup attempts” accordingly.