Police detain protesters in Armenia as anti-Sargsyan demos escalate | News | DW | 17.04.2018
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Police detain protesters in Armenia as anti-Sargsyan demos escalate

Opposition leader Nikol Pashinian declared the start of a "velvet revolution" in Armenia as protesters blocked government buildings in Yerevan. The ex-president was confirmed as the new prime minister despite protests.

Police detained 80 protesters in the Armenian capital of Yerevan hours before the national parliament confirmed the former president Serzh Sargsyan as the new head of government on Tuesday.

Tens of thousands of protesters took part in Tuesday's demonstration, staging sit-ins outside of government buildings, including the central bank and foreign ministry. Russian news agency Interfax reported that the area around the parliament building was cordoned off by police.

Anti-Sargsyan protesters took to the streets of Yerevan last week and have been staging rallies against the former president ever since. 

'Velvet revolution'

On Monday, opposition leader Nikol Pashinian called on supporters to "paralyze the work of all government agencies."

"I proclaim today the start of a peaceful velvet revolution in Armenia," he told a rally.

But police warned citizens against violating public order, suggesting that such actions could "lead to crimes against citizens' [lives], health and property." Security forces on Monday used stun grenades to disperse the rallies, with 46 people seeking medical help, including Pashinian.

Protests are expected to grow larger after Pashinian called on people to take part in "the largest rally in Armenia's history" on Tuesday evening.

Nikol Pashinian

Nikol Pashinian has long urged a democratic revolution in Armenia

Still in power

Despite protests against his rule, Sargsyan enjoys continued support from the ruling coalition.

The ex-president stepped down last week after completing his second and final term. He is succeeded by career diplomat Armen Sarkissian. 

Serzh Sargsyan, a former military officer, previously served as prime minister from 2007-2008, before winning his first term as president in a disputed vote.

He has repeatedly faced mass protests in the following years but remained the dominant politician of the landlocked ex-Soviet state. In 2015, his administration initiated a constitutional reform that transfers key elements of presidential authority to the prime minister, including the command of the army and the oversight of the security apparatus.

dj/msh (dpa, Interfax, AFP)

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