YEREVAN: Opposition parties in Armenia staged protests on Monday to demand Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan resign, accusing him of compromising under international pressure on the long-contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Arch-foe Caucasus neighbours Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a dispute since the 1990s over the mountainous enclave in Azerbaijan predominantly populated by ethnic Armenians.

Karabakh was at the centre of a six-week war in 2020 that claimed more than 6,500 lives before it ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement.

Opposition parties accuse Pashinyan of plans to give away all of Karabakh to Azerbaijan after he told lawmakers last month that the “international community calls on Armenia to scale down demands on Karabakh”.

Waving Armenian and Karabakh flags and shouting demands for Pashinyan to step down, some 5,000 protesters marched on Monday evening in central Yerevan.

“We are launching a popular protest movement to force Pashinyan to resign,” parliament vice speaker and opposition leader Ishkhan Saghatelyan said before the rally.

“He is a traitor, he has lied to the people,” he said, accusing the 46-year-old leader of wanting to hand over the contested region to Azerbaijan.

One of the demonstrators, 53-year-old dentist Hripsime Mkrtchyan, said: “Nikol must resign. His poor policy has led to territorial and human losses.

“Our people have never been in such a depressed mood. We don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Earlier in the morning, public transport was disrupted in Yerevan as small groups of protesters attempted to block traffic in the city centre.

Police intervened, briefly detaining dozens of protesters.

The Union of Journalists, a media advocacy group, criticised police tactics as heavy-handed, saying there were several instances of officers punching journalists covering the protests.

On Sunday, several thousand protesters rallied in central Yerevan to demand Pashinyan’s resignation.

Under the Moscow-brokered deal, Armenia ceded swathes of territory it had controlled for decades and Russia deployed some 2,000 peacekeepers to oversee the truce.

Published in Dawn,May 3rd, 2022

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