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Scores of protesters detained in Armenia

More than 200 protesters have been detained on Monday in the Armenian capital of Yerevan during mass protests sparked by recent remarks by the country’s prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, about the longstanding Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The weekend saw thousands of opposition supporters gather in central Yerevan as part of a campaign to oust Pashinyan. As a reason for discontent, they cite the prime minister’s recent statements which they believe show a willingness to compromise on the Karabakh issue, up to even giving the disputed territory away to Azerbaijan. Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a bloody war over control of Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020, which has seen periodic flare-ups ever since, the most recent being this past March.

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As of 14:00, 244 citizens who did not comply with the lawful demands of the police were taken to different police stations,” a police spokesperson told the Tass news agency.

On Monday morning, according to local media, the groups of activists participating in what was called a “civil disobedience” campaign started blocking dozens of streets in the center of Yerevan, prompting the police to use force to restore order.

READ MORE: Armenia announces Azerbaijan peace talks agreement

The protesters condemned the actions of law enforcement and stressed that they would continue their campaign.

We have many cases of violence, including against parliament deputies. But you know, all this is secondary. Everything is alright. People have risen up and the objectives set by us are being methodically achieved,” one of the opposition leaders, Parliament Vice President Ishkhan Saghatelyan, is quoted as saying.

On Sunday, during the thousands-strong rally, Saghatelyan told journalists that “any political status of Karabakh within Azerbaijan is unacceptable” and that “Pashinyan has betrayed people’s trust and must go.”

Another rally is expected to take place on Monday evening.

The unrest has come in response to a recent speech by the prime minister to Parliament in which he said: “Today the international community tells us again ‘lower your benchmark on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh a little and ensure greater international consolidation around Armenia and Artsakh’.

Otherwise, according to the prime minister, the international community will ask Armenia not to rely on it as it will be unable to help.

Following the widespread criticism, the prime minister’s political allies accused the opposition of using the remarks as a pretext for political games, insisting that Pashinyan does not plan to give away Nagorno-Karabakh.

In early April, following a meeting between Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Brussels, Armenia said that it had reached an agreement with Baku to set up a commission on border delimitation. It added also that the sides had agreed to start preparations for definitive peace talks.

Yerevan and Baku fought a 44-day-long war in 2020, during which Azerbaijan captured parts of Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed territory controlled by Armenians since the early 1990s. A Moscow-brokered ceasefire saw Russian peacekeepers deployed to the region.

The situation on the ground has remained tense, however, with both sides accusing each other of provoking hostilities. 

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