Who is behind the unrest in Armenia

Who is behind the unrest in Armenia

Mikhail Katkov, Alena KazakovaMike Head

Mass protests erupted in Yerevan on May 1 – opposition leaders, including the heads of the Hayastan and I have the Honor parliamentary factions Robert Kocharyan and Artur Vanetsyan, call these actions the “last battle” with Nikol Pashinyan’s regime. Opponents of the prime minister are convinced that he is ready to surrender Artsakh (the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic) to Azerbaijan, and Armenia to Turkey. The reason for the accusations was given by Pashinyan himself, who said in parliament that the Armenians need to lower the bar of demands on Karabakh. RIA Novosti understood the situation.
Hike to Yerevan
The opposition organized a demonstrative march to Yerevan from four regions of Armenia, recalling how four years ago Nikol Pashinyan, with one backpack on his back, left Gyumri for the capital, where, with the support of hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens, he overthrew the so-called Karabakh clan. It was called the “velvet revolution”, and now its opponents are trying to take revenge.
People came out from Tigranashen and Noyemberyan, where, according to Soviet maps, there are Azerbaijani enclaves, which, after the collapse of the USSR, went to Armenia. The republic fears that Baku may regain these regions, thereby depriving Yerevan of control over part of the roads within the country. Also, protesters moved out of Aparan and Sardarapat – these are the battlefields of the First World War. Then the Armenian forces managed to repulse the Turkish troops.
As a result, on May 1, about 15,000 people gathered at France Square in Yerevan. Opposition leaders called for setting up a tent camp and blocking the streets in the city center in the morning. But outside observers strongly doubted the success of the action. They joked: “If Pashinyan himself does not die, these people will not be able to take power.”
The next couple of days seemed to confirm the forecast of skeptics. Crowds roamed Yerevan, but it did not come to a full-fledged blockade of the streets, let alone the seizure of buildings of state authorities. The police dismantled the barricades, detained the most violent (on May 2 and 3 – 314 people). but on the whole the city led a familiar life. However, tensions persisted, with occasional clashes between locals and protesters. The townspeople reproached the oppositionists for their unwillingness to work, and they responded with accusations of “treason.”
It is noteworthy that the Artsakh authorities did not support the protests. At first, they also talked about the betrayal of Pashinyan and even about the need to go under the direct control of Russia, but the prime minister, having met with Vladimir Putin, allocated $ 44 million for the restoration of Stepanakert, and the insult, if not forgotten, then became less painful. In addition, the opposition has not yet offered Artsakh anything other than the slogan “No to Turkishization!”, although the Karabakh Armenians would like to receive at least security guarantees.
Assault attempt
Nevertheless, on the morning of May 4, the opposition blocked the main streets of Yerevan with trucks and concrete mixers, and the National Security Service of Armenia reported that there was a danger of an attack on the parliament of the republic. On that day, Nikol Pashinyan was performing there. He said that his predecessor, Serzh Sargsyan, lost the negotiations on Karabakh when he adopted the “Madrid principles”.
Opposition deputies accused the prime minister of failing to fulfill campaign promises and demanded his resignation, after which they defiantly left the meeting room.
“The worthy citizens of Armenia do not need to seize any buildings for the simple reason that power is now concentrated on the streets, in the hands of the Armenians,” explained Hayastan MP Kristine Vardanyan, a spokeswoman for Hayastan.
However, some time later, the vice-speaker of the National Assembly of Armenia, Ishkhan Saghatelyan, nevertheless suggested that the protesters break through the police cordon. If successful, it was supposed to block the entrance or completely seize the parliament. The attempt was unsuccessful, and the crowd moved on down the street.
Meanwhile, in another district of the city, the protesters decided to hoist the flag of Artsakh on the Armenian Foreign Ministry. Several people ran up to the entrance, waving flags and whistling, calling a crowd. Several hundred policemen blocked her way.
Unlike their colleagues near the parliament, they were without helmets and shields. The first wave was repulsed, but then the cordon was nevertheless broken through.
Having penetrated into the courtyard of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the oppositionists began to break inside. The situation was defused by Ishkhan Saghatelyan, who was allowed by the police to hang the flag of Artsakh on the building. The crowd retreated – they decided to spend the night on France Square and on the morning of May 5 to continue the buildup of the Pashinyan regime.
“Cooking up a legend”
“So far, we can say that the protests are not very strong. And it’s hard to understand how far they can go. If there is an escalation, a transition to a new quality, this will give some political consequences. There is a chance of the opposition winning, but not very high,” says political scientist, researcher at the Caucasus Institute Grant Mikaelyan.
The authorities are trying to prevent the growth of protests.
“When the opposition tries to move their performances to a new location, a certain force is used. On the other hand, the country’s leadership avoids large-scale violence, for example, to unblock a tent camp, realizing that this could turn into an escalation,” the expert notes.
The statement about the need to “lower the bar of expectations” on the issue of ownership of Nagorno-Karabakh Mikaelyan regards as “preparation for public opinion.” According to him, this could not be avoided, since Pashinyan is preparing for a policy of “pacification” towards Turkey and Azerbaijan.
Power struggle
Alexander Markarov, head of the Armenian branch of the Institute of CIS Countries, also doubts that the protests can force the prime minister to resign. Pashinyan himself came to power on a wave of rallies and is well aware of what is happening on the streets.
“Ten to fifteen thousand people gather in the city center. According to various sources, up to 30 thousand people come to the demonstrations. It is unlikely that they will become a critical mass sufficient to influence Pashinyan. Although a prolonged and more intense impact will play a certain role,” — political scientist says.
Experts agree that as long as the protests are reduced to a confrontation between the former and current authorities of Armenia, Pashinyan will not be overthrown.
“The prime minister has a low rating of trust in society, but those who now lead the opposition have even lower ones. At the same time, Kocharyan, Vanetsyan and others are competing and do not want to lose control of the street. Most of the society is still in deep apathy,” says Armenian political analyst Arshaluys Mgdesyan.
In his opinion, the main problem of modern Armenia is that the republic needs serious changes in domestic and foreign policy, and without the consolidated support of society, the authorities cannot decide on this. The opposition, shaking the situation, is also not very popular. While some are fighting with others, there is less and less time for reforms.

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