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Armenian Government Conducts First Shake-Up Under Pashinian


Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian (right) pays a visit to Stepanakert in Nagorno-Karabakh on May 9.

YEREVAN -- The Armenian government has conducted its first major shake-up since former protest leader Nikol Pashinian became prime minister on May 8, firing the country's top police chief and its national security adviser, while the acting finance minister announced his resignation.

After an official request by Pashinian, President Armen Sarkisian on May 10 signed a decree dismissing Police Chief Vladimir Gasparian and national security adviser Georgy Kutoian.

The 60-year-old Gasparian had been the country's top police officer since 2011, while Kutoian, 37, had served for just over two years as national security adviser.

Pashinian nominated Yerevan deputy police chief Valery Osipian to lead the country's police force. Ospian took part in negotiations with Pashinian and other organizers during the recent street protests in the capital.

"During the demonstrations, we were on a different side of the barricade from Valery Osipian. I decided...that we will be on the same side," Pashinian wrote on his Facebook page.

Artur Vanetsian, head of the security force for the capital, replaced Kutoian as national security adviser.

Acting Finance Minister Vardan Aramian, meanwhile, released a statement saying he was resigning "with hopes that a new government will continue the efficient search for solutions to make our country more stable in economic terms."

Pashinian also announced he had appointed Eduard Aghajanian as his chief of staff. The 30-year-old Aghajanian is a member of Civil Contract, which was founded by Pashinian and is a participant in the minority Yelk alliance in parliament.

According to his biography, Aghajanian has a master’s degree in business from the International University of Monaco and was a private entrepreneur from 2014 to 2017.

The moves come just two days after Pashinian was elected prime minister by the parliament following several tumultuous weeks of street demonstrations, which he spearheaded.

The protests were directed against the continued rule of Serzh Sarkisian, who had been elected prime minister by a parliament dominated by his Republican Party (HHK) after term limits ended his two five-year mandates as president.

Sarkisian, who is not related to Armen Sarkisian, was forced to resign on April 23, some six days after taking the premiership amid massive protests led by Pashinan, who called the demonstrations a "velvet revolution" in the South Caucasus nation.

Pashinian, a 42-year-old former journalist, was briefly detained by police on April 22, before Sarkisian's resignation.

Almost a decade ago he had also been sentenced to seven years in prison for his alleged role in leading postelection protests in Yerevan in 2008. He was jailed from July 2009 until May 2011, when he was released under a general amnesty.

Pashinian was elected to the prime minister's position on May 8 on his second try after the HHK agreed to provide him with enough votes to win to help "normalize" the situation in the country.

Among his first duties, Pashinian on May 9 visited Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, a region in Azerbaijan under the control of ethnic Armenian forces.

There, he called for the region's de facto authorities to become a party in the internationally mediated talks to resolve the longstanding conflict between Yerevan and Baku.

Pashinian also has vowed to call new elections as soon as he is sure they could be conducted under fair and transparent conditions.

With reporting by Interfax, Reuters, and RIA Novosti.
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