Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan claimed that the military attempted a coup against him on Thursday after the army General Staff demanded that he and his government resign. Pashinyan called on his supporters to rally in the Armenian capital of Yerevan.
Armenia’s military suffered a disastrous loss in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The military had strongly criticized Pashinyan’s handling of the crisis and he had faced calls for his resignation in November after Azerbaijan had roundly defeated Armenia’s forces.
Tensions reached a peak earlier this week when Pashinyan fired the Chief of the General Staff Onik Gasparyan and the Deputy Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Tiran Khachatryan after he mocked the prime minister’s claim that just 10 percent of Russian-supplied Iskander missiles, which Armenia had used in the conflict, exploded on impact. The Russians responded to this claim in a post from a military official in Russia Today (RT), titled, “A Bad Workman Blames His Tools.”
Pashinyan said that the military’s attempts were “a military coup” and urged the Armenian military to only listen to his orders.
But on Thursday, the army released a statement saying, “The ineffective management of the current government and the serious mistakes in foreign policy have put the country on the brink of collapse.”
Protests against Pashinyan calling for him to resign began immediately after he signed a peace deal in early November that saw Azerbaijan reclaim control over large parts of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. Russia then brokered an agreement that ended 44 days of fierce fighting.
Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijani territory but was ruled by ethnic Armenians, who comprised most of the population. An earlier conflict in 1994 had left Nagorno-Karabakh itself and substantial surrounding territory in Armenian hands. But the Azerbaijan military, with massive help from Turkish and Israeli drones, turned the tables in 2020.
Pashinyan defended the peace deal as a painful but necessary move to prevent Azerbaijan from overrunning the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region.
After the latest call for his resignation, Pashinyan broadcast a Facebook live post in which he called on his supporters to rally in support of the government.
“Today I made a decision to fire the chief of the general staff and his first deputy. The defense minister is already preparing a corresponding decision on appointing a new chief of the general staff and his deputies,” he said.
“The most important problem now is to keep the power in the hands of the people, because I consider what is happening to be a military coup,” the Armenian prime minister added.
Russia, a long-time ally of Armenia, said it was alarmed by events in the former Soviet republic and urged the sides to resolve the situation peacefully. “We are watching the development of the situation in Armenia with concern,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said to media members in Moscow. “Naturally, we call for calm.”
Russia has a military base in the country.