Nikol Pashinyan is under mounting pressure to quit over his handling of the Nagorno-Karabakh war, but his supporters have come out in force.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has accused top military officers of attempting a coup after they demanded he step down, adding fuel to months-long protests calling for his resignation.
Anti-government sentiment swelled last November after a conflict with Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region ended, and gathered pace again this week.
With pressure on Pashinyan mounting as protesters decry his handling of that war, the military on Thursday issued a statement calling for his resignation.
Pashinyan responded by firing Onik Gasparyan, head of the army’s General Staff, and later took to the streets of the capital, Yerevan, in a bid to rally supporters behind him. Thousands came out in support of Pashinyan.
But throngs of opposition demonstrators also took to the streets of Yerevan on Thursday, chanting “Nikol, you traitor!” and “Nikol, resign!” while blocking streets and paralysing traffic around the capital.
Follow all the latest updates:
Pashinyan tells the army to do its job
Addressing his supporters at a rally in Yerevan, Pashinyan says that Armenians will not allow a military coup to take place and tells the army to do its job and defend the country.
Pashinyan said the question of his resignation could only be decided by the people because he was elected by the people.
Armenian president taking ‘urgent measures’ to defuse crisis
Armenia’s President Armen Sarkisian says he is taking urgent steps to end the country’s rapidly-escalating political crisis.
“Reaffirming the role of the presidency as a balancing body, I am taking urgent measures to defuse tensions and find ways to resolve the situation peacefully,” Sarkisian said in a statement.
He also called on “everyone – state bodies, law enforcement agencies, political forces, all citizens – to show restraint and common sense”.
“Every ill-considered word or action increases tensions and deepens the crisis,” Sarkisian, whose role is largely symbolic, said.
‘His tenure does hang in the balance’
Al Jazeera’s Robin Forestier-Walker, who has extensively covered the conflict over the years, provides some context to the situation here:
Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan warns of an “attempted coup” against him after the military’s call for his resignation. Pashinyan has faced criticism over his handling of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Azerbaijan.
Read More: https://t.co/hBVlNgjrSc https://t.co/UclxFJsdbQ
— Al Jazeera News (@AJENews) February 25, 2021
Former president calls for Pashinyan to go
Adding to the pressure on Pashinyan, former Armenian President Robert Kocharyan says the former “must go” as he called on Armenians to “stand by” the country’s armed forces.
“The authorities who have lost the war and surrendered the land must go,” Kocharyan wrote in a statement posted on Facebook. “This is the prime necessity for our national rebirth.”
Turkey strongly condemns ‘coup’: FM
Turkey’s foreign minister condemns what he called a coup attempt against Pashinyan and says it is unacceptable for the military to call for the resignation of a democratically elected leader.
“We are against any coup d’etat or coup attempt, no matter where it takes place in the world. We strongly condemn the coup attempt in Armenia,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a news conference in Budapest.
Turkey strongly supported Azerbaijan in the recent Nagorno-Karabakh war.
Russia calls for a peaceful resolution
Russia says it is concerned by the growing political tensions in Armenia, where it has a military base.
Speaking to reporters on a conference call, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called on the military and Pashinyan’s government to resolve their differences peacefully and within the framework of the constitution.
Armenia is a close Russian ally.