Armenian PM warns of a military coup attempt

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan warned of an attempted military coup against him on Thursday and called on his supporters to rally in the capital after the army demanded he and his government resign.

Pashinyan has faced protests and calls to resign after what his critics say was the disastrous handling of a bloody six-week conflict between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh last year.

The Kremlin, an ally of Armenia, said it was alarmed by events in the former Soviet republic. Thousands of his supporters took to streets. Pashinyan, who swept to power in a peaceful revolution in May 2018, has rejected calls to step down despite opposition protests. — Reuters

Pashinian, who addressed some 20,000 supporters in the center of Yerevan on February 25, said Armenians would not allow the armed forces to interfere after top military brass joined opposition demands for his resignation.

Meanwhile, opposition parties that organized a 10,000-strong rival protest demanding that Pashinian step down set up camps and barricades outside parliament, calling for Pashinian’s removal.

Iveta Tonoian, a lawmaker representing the opposition Prosperous Armenia party, told reporters that opposition factions plan to hold an emergency parliamentary session on February 26 to discuss the political situation in the country.

On February 25, Pashinian told the rally in Yerevan that the military should focus solely on protecting Armenia from external forces.

“As prime minister, my order to all soldiers, officers and generals of the armed forces is: Gentlemen, do your job — the protection of the Armenian borders and its territorial integrity. This is my order, and no one can dare to [violate] this order,” Pashinian told the rally.

The prime minister, who spoke amid a heavy security presence after leading a march through the streets of Yerevan, was reacting to a letter released earlier in the day by the military’s General Staff demanding he and his government resign.

In response, the Defense Ministry issued a statement declaring any involvement of the military in politics is “unacceptable.”

Pashinian, whose My Step alliance holds a majority in parliament, has rejected opposition demands for early elections and called for consultations.