Armenian PM Sargsyan resigns after week of mass protests
Demonstrations against Sargsyan, who served as president for a decade before being elected to his new office by the Armenian parliament last week, erupted on April 13. Ahead of the vote, several opposition MPs organized rallies against Sargsyan, accusing him of usurping power.
The leaders of the protests, MPs Nikol Pashinyan, Ararat Mirzoyan and Sasun Mikaelyan, were arrested on Sunday amid a police crackdown on a rally disrupting traffic in the capital, Yerevan. Before that, the prime minister met with Pashinyan, but the encounter lasted for only a few minutes and essentially amounted to the opposition leader demanding the Sargsyan’s resignation. The government threatened to strip the trio of their legal immunity and prosecute, but made a U-turn on Monday.
“I am addressing to you as the leader of the state for the last time. Nikol Pashinyan was right and I was wrong. There are several possible decisions in this situation, but I won’t take those,” Sargsyan said in an address to the nation. “I am resigning from office.”
The protests in Armenia have been mostly non-violent with some exceptions, although they have caused disruption. The opposition’s strategy from the start was to block traffic and otherwise create problems for the administration of the capital. Clashes between the protesters and the police occasionally erupted when law enforcement tried to clear streets blocked by rallies, as was the case with Sunday’s crackdown that ended with the arrests of the three leaders and over 200 other people. The police would normally release those detained shortly after arrest.
Before Sargsyan resigned on Monday, an estimated 50 unarmed soldiers from a unit stationed in Yerevan were filmed joining the civilian crowds. The country’s Defense Ministry threatened to discipline them, saying that the service members violated military regulations and the principle of the army’s neutrality in politics.
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