Armenian president refuses to dismiss the army chief

Yerevan | Armenian President Armen Sarkissian refused, on Saturday, to sign the prime minister’s order to dismiss the army chief, further exacerbating the political crisis in the country, as several thousand people demonstrated again.

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“The president, within the framework of the powers granted to him by the constitution, has returned the text (of the order to dismiss the army commander) in opposition,” the presidency said in a statement. She added that the political crisis “cannot be solved by repeated changes of officials.”

Soon after, Prime Minister Nicole Pachinyan indicated on Facebook that he would return the matter to the presidency, stressing that his decision “did not defuse the crisis at all.”

The aggravation of the situation came as several thousand people demonstrated in Yerevan, on Saturday, for the third consecutive day, in order to obtain the resignation of the prime minister criticized for his defeat in the fall of 2020 war in Nagorno Karabakh.

Armenia has been going through a political crisis since Mr. Pashinyan in November forced and compulsorily agreed to the peace agreement proposed by Moscow, confirming a humiliating defeat against Azerbaijan.

The crisis that has been brewing since then saw a stunning rebound on Thursday with the General Staff calling for Mr. Pacinian’s resignation. Then the latter denounced the coup attempt, ordering the dismissal of the army chief, Onik Gasparyan, and gathering about 20,000 of his supporters in the capital, Yerevan.

On Thursday and Friday the opposition responded with thousands of demonstrators demanding the resignation of Mr. Pacinian.

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

At 7:30 pm (10:30 a.m. in Quebec), the motorcade arrived in front of Parliament, where some protesters had set up camp, an AFP journalist noted. Around 5,000 protesters gathered there earlier in the day, calling on parliamentarians to act.

“Pacinian must go for the good of our country, because he is so weak today.” “No one is taking it seriously,” said Vera Simonyan, 28, a protester.

‘Humiliating deal’

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

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

Arut Zakaryan, a 53-year-old locksmith, told AFP during Saturday’s protest that Nicole Pachinyan “must take responsibility for the defeat in the war, for the signing of a humiliating agreement.”

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

At that time, faced with the risk of disaster, the military asked the prime minister to agree to the ceasefire negotiated by Russian President Vladimir Putin that resulted in heavy territorial losses in Yerevan.

While most of the Armenian separatist Nagorno Karabakh region survived, Armenia lost the symbolic city of Shusha, as well as an icy region of Azerbaijani lands surrounding the region. Within six weeks, the war claimed the lives of an estimated 6,000 people.

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The military has supported the prime minister so far, but left this week after the dismissal of a senior official who criticized Pachinyan’s claims that the defeat was partly due to the ineffectiveness of Russia’s weapons system, the Iskander missile launchers.

Then the Armenian General Staff demanded the resignation of Mr. Pacinyan, on the grounds that he was “no longer able to take the necessary decisions.”

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