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'Take A Break,' Armenia's Pashinian Tells Protesters


Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian (file photo)
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian (file photo)

YEREVAN -- New Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, brought to power by mass demonstrations, has called on Armenians who have been holding strikes and civil-disobedience protests in recent days to interrupt their protests.

Dozens of demonstrators rallied in Yerevan on May 17, demanding the resignation of Prosecutor-General Artur Davtian after a Yerevan court rejected the release of 10 members of the Sasna Tsrer group from pretrial detention.

The 10 are charged with the armed, two-week occupation of a Yerevan police station in 2016, a standoff with authorities that led to the deaths of two police officers.

The May 17 protests came after dozens of people rallied in Yerevan for days demanding the resignation of Mayor Taron Markarian, whom they accuse of corruption, misusing state funds, and illegally cutting down trees in a park in the capital.

Tree Protesters Storm Yerevan City Hall
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Markarian is an ally of longtime former President Serzh Sarkisian, who stepped down as prime minister on April 23 after weeks of peaceful street protests led by Pashinian.

In a live video stream on Facebook, on May 17, Pashinian called on all citizens to stop their protests at 3 p.m. local time (1100 GMT/UTC).

"When we closed roads [during the protests in April led by Pashinian] we did so because there was no government in Armenia that enjoyed the people's trust. Today there is a government that enjoys the people's trust," Pashinian said.

Pashinian asked all those who have complaints and grievances to formulate them and present them to the government in written form.

"Confrontation between the government and society should be replaced by cooperation between the government and society," he said.

Pashinian's call came amid speculation that the protests staged by various groups demanding the resignations of local authorities, pay rises, or protesting job cuts made by the previous authorities may have been "orchestrated" by former government loyalists in order to "sabotage" the work of the Pashinian government.

However, Pashinian told RFE/RL on May 17 that he did not see any elements of "sabotage."

Talking to journalists earlier in the day, Pashinian called on the protesters "to take a break."

"We will fail if we try to solve all problems at once. It is good that citizens are using their right to freely express their grievances, but we have to understand that it is impossible to solve all the problems right away," he said.

Pashinian also said "it does not make sense at this point to demand the resignation of Markarian and Davtian."

Pashinian was voted in as prime minister of the South Caucasus country on May 8.

Opponents of Sarkisian, who had been president for 10 years and moved to the newly powerful post of prime minister in mid-April, see him as part of a long-entrenched ruling elite that is unresponsive to the interests of many Armenians.

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