Armenian president refuses to sack army chief

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YREVAN | Armenian President Armen Sarkissian refused on Saturday to sign the Prime Minister’s order dismissing the army chief, further exacerbating the political crisis in the country, where several thousand people demonstrated again.

• Read also: Armenia: Opposition supporters camp in front of Parliament

“The president, within the framework of the powers conferred on him by the Constitution, returned the text (ordering the dismissal of the chief of the army) with objections”, explained the presidency in a press release. The political crisis “cannot be resolved by frequent changes of officials,” she added.

Shortly afterwards, Prime Minister Nikol Pachinian indicated on Facebook that he would return this order to the presidency, stressing that his decision had “not at all” defused the crisis.

This worsening of the situation came as several thousand people demonstrated in Yerevan on Saturday for the third day in a row, in order to obtain the resignation of the prime minister, criticized for the defeat in the autumn 2020 war in Nagorno. Karabakh.

Armenia has been in a political crisis since Mr. Pashinian accepted in November, coerced and forced, the peace agreement proposed by Moscow, thus confirming a humiliating defeat against Azerbaijan.

The crisis that has been brewing since then experienced a spectacular rebound on Thursday with the general staff’s call for the resignation of Mr. Pachinian. The latter then denounced an attempted coup, ordered the dismissal of the army chief, Onik Gasparian, and gathered some 20,000 of his supporters in the capital Yerevan.

The opposition responded Thursday and Friday by rallying thousands of protesters to demand the resignation of Mr. Pachinian.

On Saturday, protesters marched through central Yerevan again, with many cheering them on from their windows or from their balconies.

At 7:30 p.m. (10:30 a.m. in Quebec), the procession arrived in front of Parliament, where some demonstrators had established a camp, noted an AFP journalist. About 5,000 demonstrators gathered there earlier in the day, calling on parliamentarians to act.

“Pachinian must go for the good of our country, because he is very weak today. Nobody takes it seriously, ”Vera Simonyan, a 28-year-old protester told AFP.

“Humiliating agreement”

Former Prime Minister Vazgen Manoukian, who was cited by the opposition to replace Nikol Pachinian, told the crowd that he expected the political crisis to be “resolved within two to three days”.

“Today, Pachinian has no support. I call on the security services and the police to join the army, to support the army, ”he added.

Nikol Pachinian “must be held responsible for the defeat in the war, for the signing of a humiliating agreement,” Arut Zakaryan, a 53-year-old locksmith, told AFP during Saturday’s protest.

The Armenian prime minister, who came to power in 2018 following a peaceful revolution, has been the target of calls for resignation since the defeat in the war for control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region last November.

At the time, faced with the risk of a debacle, the army asked the head of government to accept a ceasefire negotiated by Russian President Vladimir Putin and which involved significant territorial losses for Yerevan.

While most of the Armenian breakaway region of Nagorno Karabakh has survived, Armenia has lost the symbolic city of Shusha, as well as a glacis of Azerbaijani territory surrounding the region. In six weeks, the war claimed an estimated 6,000 lives.

The military has so far supported the prime minister, but let go this week after the dismissal of a senior official who criticized Mr Pachinian’s claims that the defeat was in part due to the ineffectiveness of a Russian weapon system, the Iskander missile launchers.

The Armenian general staff then demanded the resignation of Mr. Pachinian, judging that he was “no longer in a position to take the necessary decisions”.