Caspian Region

Armenian Police Detain Protesters Calling for PM to Step Down

Protesters gather outside the headquarters of the Armenian foreign ministry during an anti-government demonstration in Yerevan, Armenia May 4, 2022. Vahram Baghdasaryan/Photolure via REUTERS

TBILISI (Reuters) -Police detained dozens of protesters who marched and blocked roads in Armenia's capital Yerevan on Thursday calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan over his handling of the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis.


Local television footage showed officers grabbing protesters and dragging them into vans. Police said they had detained 49 protesters as of midday.


The landlocked South Caucasus country has seen a string of protests in recent days as pressure mounts on the embattled premier.


Pashinyan has faced heavy criticism for agreeing to a Russian-brokered ceasefire that saw Armenia defeated by Azerbaijan in a six-week war in 2020 and lose significant territory in and around the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.


Russia is a close ally of Armenia. It has a military base in the northwest of the country and sent peacekeepers to Nagorno-Karabakh under the accord that ended the fighting.


Asked about Moscow's position on the protests, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was entirely a domestic issue for Armenia.


"We are interested in this period ending in Armenia as soon as possible and for a period of stability to resume, allowing us to gradually move towards the implementation of the trilateral agreements on Nagorno-Karabakh," Peskov told reporters on a conference call.


Pashinyan angered the opposition last month when he said the international community had urged Armenia to "lower the bar" on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but populated and until recently fully controlled by ethnic Armenians.


Azerbaijan said last month it was ready for negotiations on a peace treaty with Armenia, but said Yerevan needed to renounce any claim on its territory.


Pashinyan - who says he agreed to the Russian-brokered ceasefire in 2020 to avoid further losses - has insisted he will not sign any peace deal with Azerbaijan without consulting ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.