YEREVAN: Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan accused the military of an attempted coup and brought supporters to the streets on Thursday, as months of tensions over its defeat in last year’s war with Azerbaijan came to a head.
Addressing some 20,000 supporters in central Yerevan, Pashinyan told military officers it was their duty to “obey the people” after top generals issued a statement calling on him to resign.
There were no signs of any military action against Pashinyan after the statement by the general staff, which he denounced as an attempted coup.
“As an elected prime minister, I am ordering all generals, officers and soldiers: do your job of protecting the country’s borders and territorial integrity,” he said during the rally.
The army “must obey the people and elected authorities,” Pashinyan said.
The defence ministry also issued a statement declaring that the army had no place in politics.
“The army is not a political institution and attempts to involve it in political processes are unacceptable,” it said.
Pashinyan said he was ready to start talks with the opposition, but also threatened to arrest any of his opponents who “go beyond political statements”.
Pashinyan has been under intense pressure over his handling of the conflict for control of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, but has ignored repeated calls to resign for losing swathes of territory to Azerbaijan.
After backing the prime minister for months, the military’s general staff on Thursday joined calls for him to step down, saying in a statement that he and his cabinet “are not capable of taking adequate decisions”.