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30 May, 2024 10:28

WATCH new wave of protests sweep through capital of ex-Soviet republic

Demonstrators are rallying at the government building in Yerevan, expressing outrage over a border deal with Azerbaijan

Armenian police have cordoned off a square in downtown Yerevan due to a large protest over a border deal with neighboring Azerbaijan, according to local media and footage from the scene.

The Armenian capital has been a hotbed of civil unrest since mid-April, when Yerevan and Baku agreed to launch a border delimitation process that resulted in Armenia agreeing to cede several villages in the border Tavush Region to Azerbaijan.

Relations between two south Caucasus ex-Soviet republics have been marred by decades of tensions, including over the now-defunct self-proclaimed republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, which was integrated last year after an Azerbaijani military operation in the area.

The transfer of land to Azerbaijan sparked massive public outcry in Tavush, where a movement called ‘Tavush for the Homeland,’ led by local Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan, urged Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to resign. In the days that followed, the movement’s participants marched on the capital.

As the protests unfolded, leading to clashes with police, Galstanyan called for a new act of civil disobedience on Thursday morning in Republic Square in Yerevan. “If the police officers do not let us in, we leave the cars and walk to the government building,” he said.

Footage of the protest shows dozens of police officers at the scene, forming a barrier around the government building. As some of the protesters left their cars in the square, local authorities began to evacuate them.

The march appeared to be mostly peaceful, with some protesters waving national flags, blowing horns, and igniting flares. However, local media have reported a scuffle with police, which resulted in several arrests. Authorities later confirmed that some participants had hit law enforcers, adding that a total of nine people had been detained. They also warned that “any illegal act will receive an appropriate criminal assessment.”

Videos from the scene also appear to show a large crowd, led by Galstanyan himself, standing at the footsteps of the government building.

Similar protests earlier this week resulted in the arrest of more than 200 participants and the temporary closure of several major highways leading to Yerevan, while some demonstrators blocked roads in the capital itself.