Armenia’s prime minister accused top military officers on Thursday of attempting a coup after they demanded he step down, adding fuel to months long protests calling for his resignation following the nation’s defeat in a conflict with Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The demonstrations began immediately after Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan signed a November 10 peace deal that saw Azerbaijan reclaim control over large parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas that had been held by Armenian forces for more than a quarter-century.
Those protests have gathered pace this week, and the feud with his top military commanders has weakened Pashinyan’s position. The immediate trigger for the standoff was Pashinyan’s decision to oust the first deputy chief of the military’s General Staff, a group of the armed forces’ top commanders.
In response, the General Staff called for Pashinyan’s resignation — but the prime minister doubled down and dismissed the chief of the General Staff.
He described the military’s statement as a “military coup attempt” and urged troops to only listen to his orders.
He also called on his backers to come to the streets and then later walked among them, using a loudspeaker to rally support. “We need a conversation, not a confrontation,” he said.
Pashinyan denied rumors that he was preparing to flee the country.
Supporters of Pashinyan and the opposition engaged in sporadic scuffles on the streets of Yerevan on Thursday.