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Armenia police detain 300 at anti-government protests

YEREVAN (AFP) – Police in Armenia yesterday detained nearly 300 opposition supporters who tried to block streets in the capital Yerevan, which has been gripped for a month by anti-government protests.

Since mid-April, opposition parties have been staging rallies demanding Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s resignation over his handling of a territorial dispute with Azerbaijan.

Yesterday morning, hundreds of opposition supporters attempted to block streets across central Yerevan, an AFP journalist witnessed.

Armenia’s police department said “286 people who disobeyed lawful demands of law enforcement agents were briefly detained”.

Arch-foes Armenia and Azerbaijan fought two wars – in 2020 and in the 1990s – over the long-contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Police officers detain an opposition supporter. PHOTO: AFP

Six-weeks of fighting in autumn 2020 claimed more than 6,500 lives and ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement.

Under the deal, Armenia ceded swathes of territory it had controlled for decades, and Russia deployed some 2,000 peacekeepers to oversee the truce. The pact was seen in Armenia as a national humiliation and sparked weeks of anti-government protests, leading Pashinyan to call snap parliamentary polls which his party, Civil Contract, won last September.

Opposition parties have accused Pashinyan of planning to cede to Baku parts of Karabakh that are still under Armenian control.

Ethnic Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The ensuing conflict claimed around 30,000 lives.