Street protests broke out overnight in the Armenian capital of Yerevan, following Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s announcement last night that the government of Armenia had signed an agreement with Azerbaijan and Russia to bring the war to an end.
In a post on his official Facebook page late on Monday night, Pashinyan announced that he had made the “very difficult decision” to sign the agreement that would take effect at 1PM Moscow time, describing the text of the agreement as “unbelievably painful for me and our people”. He said that the decision had been made after a “deep analysis” of the military situation and consultations with those that best understood it. He concluded by saying that Armenian forces had “fought to the end”, vowing that Armenia would win as Artsakh “was still standing”.
In reaction hundreds of protesters gathered in Yerevan to protest Pashinyan’s statement, demanding that the “traitor” resign. Some protesters were filmed breaking into the Armenian parliament building, with some giving impassioned speeches in the parliament chamber vowing to defend their homeland, and some destroying equipment in lawmakers’ offices.
Other protesters broke into the official residence of Pashinyan in an apparent bid to find him, with windows broken and his office door’s name plate ripped off. However, Pashinyan was at neither parliament or his official residence, and he later alleged that those who broke into his official residence looted a computer, a watch, perfume and his driver’s license among other things.
Less fortunate was Ararat Mirozyan, Speaker of the Armenian Parliament. Protesters demanding to know Pashinyan’s location pulled him out of his motorcade and severely beat him, leaving him unconscious on the side of the road. He subsequently had to be operated on due to his injuries, although he is reportedly now in stable condition. Pashinyan has since announced the arrest of two individuals for their involvement in the attack.
Shortly before Pashinyan’s post, 17 Armenian political parties issued a joint statement demanding that he resign, blaming him and his government for the military defeats. They demanded the formation of a new government capable of a “breakthrough” in the situation.
The massive outpouring of anger comes after the bursting of the media bubble in Armenia in the final days of large scale fighting. Armenian propaganda had continuously denied Azerbajiani territorial gains in Nagorno-Karabakh while issuing comically exaggerated claims of enemy casualties, often taking days before conceding that they had lost territory. This culminated in the Artsakh government taking two days to admit that the strategic city of Shusha had been lost, after initially denying claims of Azeri control of the city. With Azerbaijani forces at the outskirts of the Artsakh capital Stepanakert, it was clear that the lies could no longer continue. Online anger has since turned towards Armenian generals that allegedly abandoned Shusha during the initial fighting for the city.
The protests may be a sad end for Pashinyan’s legacy, with the Prime Minister having entered power following the 2018 Velvet Revolution on a platform of democratization and reforms, being credited with significant economic growth and job creation. With the icon of those movements so harshly discredited and the economy now suffering under the brunt of both the Coronavirus pandemic and the war, the future of Armenia’s democracy now hangs by a thread.