Police in Armenia Detain Opposition Leaders and Protesters

Photo from Ukrinform


Police in Armenia detained three opposition leaders and nearly 200 protesters on Sunday, drawing a rebuke from the European Union, after demonstrators demanded newly appointed Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan to quit.

Protesters accuse Sargsyan, 63, of clinging to power after parliament made him prime minister on Tuesday, following a stint of 10 years as president. People accuse Sargsyan of ruling the nation for too long, of being too close to Russia, which has military bases inside Armenia, and of doing too little to root out corruption.

In one of the biggest political crisis in the country over a decade, tens of thousands of protestors took to the streets 10 days ago and staged sit-ins.

Nikol Pashinyan, an opposition leader, was arrested after televised talks with Sargsyan collapsed. In their exchange, the opposition leader insisted that the prime minister should quit. The prime minister then accused the opposition leader of blackmail. Two other lawmakers were also detained.

This is not the first time the opposition leader has been jailed, and this is not the first time protests have been held against Sargsyan. Pashinyan was jailed in 2008, after he took part in protests against the now prime minister.

“Despite repeated calls to stop illegal rallies, Pashinyan continued leading a demonstration,” Armenian police said in a statement.  They added that he and two other opposition politicians “were forcibly taken from the site.”

The prosecutor general’s office said that Pashinyan and the other two “were detained as they were committing socially dangerous acts.”

Nearly 200 protestors have also been detained.

The European Union called on Armenia to “show restraint and act responsibly.” “All those who have been detained while exercising their fundamental right of assembly in accordance with the law must be released immediately,”  the statement released by the EU said.


Photo from Ukrinform

The protests, though peaceful so far, threaten to destabilize a key Russian ally.

Many students are taking part in the protests. The arrests have not stopped protestors from showing up. Seven people have been taken to the hospital, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

The police have called on protesters to stop the situation from escalating

Sargsyan says his country needs him and that his party enjoys large-scale popular support.

In 2015, a referendum was passed that transferred most powers to the prime minister and made the presidency a ceremonial post. Opposition leaders called this move a power grab.