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Armenia detains 180 protesters demanding premier’s resignation

FILE PHOTO: Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is pictured during an interview with Reuters in Yerevan

Police in Armenia have detained 180 anti-government demonstrators who were blocking streets in the capital, Yerevan, to protest against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

Protests demanding that Pashinyan step down reignited in Armenia last month, after he spoke in the country’s parliament about the need to sign a peace agreement with Azerbaijan.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a decades-old conflict over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is part of Azerbaijan but has been under Armenian control since the early 1990s.

In a six-week war in the fall of 2020, Azerbaijan was able to reclaim control over large swaths of land in and around the region before signing a Russia-brokered truce with Armenia.

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Pashinyan has faced backlash at home for agreeing to the deal.

As Armenia and Azerbaijan edged closer to reaching a proper peace agreement this year, opposition forces in Armenia have resumed protests against Pashinyan.

Rallies in Yerevan have been held almost daily since April 17.

On Sunday, demonstrators in the centre of Yerevan set up tents for a round-the-clock protest and said they would not leave until Pashinyan and his team step down.

The Interfax news agency reported that barricades were erected from rubbish bins and street benches, and that traffic in France Square, where a major road connects four main avenues of the Armenian capital, stopped.

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Demonstrators – including opposition lawmakers – chanted “Armenia without Nikol!” Protest leader and deputy parliamentary speaker Ishkhan Sagatelyan told reporters that protesters would clear the streets by Monday afternoon, so that another rally could gather in the square in the evening.

Some of the detentions on Monday were carried out with the use of force, and journalists covering the protests were reported to have been pushed around by the police.

Police spokespeople told Interfax the demonstrators were detained on charges of refusing to obey police officers.

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