1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Armenia: PM sacks army chief amid coup fears

March 10, 2021

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has taken a step to counter what he has called an attempted coup by the military.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan
Armenia was involved in a deadly conflict with Azerbaijan in late 2020Image: Prime Ministry of Armenia/AA/picture alliance

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan relieved the country's Chief of General Staff Onik Gasparyan of his duties on Wednesday, according to an official statement

Pashinyan has been under pressure from the military to step down following a deadly conflict with Azerbaijan.

The prime minister called the demand an attempted coup and began legal proceedings to force out the army's top general.

Opposition protesters blocked the entrances to the parliament building in Yerevan on Tuesday evening, saying that they would not leave until Pashinyan stepped down, Russian news agency IFAX reported.

What is the background to Pashinyan's dispute with the military?

The prime minister has been holding onto power despite an ongoing spat with top military leaders and the fallout from Armenia's defeat in the conflict with Azerbaijan.

In the aftermath, Pashinyan claimed that the Russian-made Iskander missiles used by the military had been ineffective. This claim was refuted by the deputy chief of the armed forces, who was subsequently fired.

Gasparyan and over 40 other top military officials then called for the prime minister to resign.

In late February, Pashinyan tried to remove the chief of general staff, but this was blocked by President Armen Sarkissian. The prime minister made a second attempt and succeeded in ousting Gasaryan on Wednesday.

Armenia protests

Why is the Armenian prime minister under pressure?

The 45-year-old prime minister came to power in 2018 as part of a popular movement to remove the longtime leader Serzh Sargsyan. He is now facing a new popular movement — with military support — that is seeking his own removal.

The opposition has been pressuring him to step down based on his handling of the Azerbaijan conflict. Armenia lost de facto control over much of the majority ethnic Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan.

Map of Nagorno-Karabakh in the wake of the 2020 war
More than 47,000 people died in the conflict.

Pashinyan's own supporters also took to the streets at the end of February to rally behind him. He has said he is "ready" to face early elections to sure up his position.

ab/rt (Reuters, IFAX)