Armenia’s embattled Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, today accused the Armenian armed forces of attempting to mount a coup against him, following the publication of an open letter signed by multiple senior military leaders calling for his resignation.
The publication of the open letter on Facebook follows Pashinyan’s firing of the deputy chief of staff of Armenia’s armed forces yesterday, after he derided Pashinyan’s claims during a television interview. During the interview, the Prime Minister claimed that Armenia did launch its Iskander ballistic missiles towards the end of the war last year, but the missiles launched either failed to detonate or did so at “ten percent” of their warheads’ explosive load.
In the open letter, senior Armenian military leaders accused the firing of not taking into account “national and state interests of the Republic of Armenia”, being based on Pashinyan’s personal feelings and ambitions instead. The “irresponsible step”, according to them, meant that Pashinyan and his government would not be able to make “adequate” decisions during a time of national crisis. The statement continued that while the military had previously tolerated the “attacks” on its integrity by Pashinyan’s government, a limit had been reached, and it was now clear that “The ineffective management of the current authorities and the serious mistakes in foreign policy have brought the country to the edge of destruction.”
After the publication of the open letter, Pashinyan issued a statement on his official Facebook page that he considered it to be a coup attempt. He called upon supporters of the government to gather in Yerevan’s Republic Square, adding that he would perform a live broadcast on Facebook soon.
Following the Facebook livestream, where he announced the firing of the head of the general staff of the armed forces, Pashinyan then met with his supporters outside the main government building, alongside his wife, son and daughter. He marched with thousands of his supporters through the capital, speaking to the crowd that the military had no place in Armenian politics. Livestreams from the rally show a Russian MiG-29 making a low pass over the city.
Despite a widespread outpouring of public anger directed at him since the signing of the armistice that ended the fighting, it’s clear that Pashinyan still retains some of the popular appeal that brought him to the leadership of Armenia. However, with former Armenian presidents Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sarksyan expressing their support for the military’s demands for Pashinyan’s resignation, it’s clear that street politics alone won’t be how Armenia’s ever-deepening political crisis will be resolved.