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Armenian Opposition Protesters Blockade Parliament To Demand PM's Resignation


Opposition Protesters Attempt To Block Entrance To Armenian Parliament
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YEREVAN -- Thousands of Armenian opposition supporters have blockaded the parliament building in Yerevan to press a demand for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian to resign.

The demonstrators surrounded the building on March 9 and engaged in occasional scuffles with police, as several opposition lawmakers stood between the two sides to prevent violent clashes.

Police officers clad in riot gear did not attempt to disperse the crowd.

"Do not succumb to provocations," opposition activist Ishkhan Saghatelian told the protesters. "None of us is going to break through the National Assembly gate."

"This is our civil disobedience action against this parliament," he said.

Pashinian has faced mounting protests and calls from the opposition for his resignation following a six-week conflict between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh last year.

At the heart of the turmoil is the Russian-brokered deal Pashinian signed in November that brought an end to the fighting after Armenian forces suffered territorial and battlefield losses from Azerbaijan's Turkish-backed military.

Under the deal, Armenia ceded control over parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and all seven surrounding districts of Azerbaijan that had been occupied by Armenian forces since the early 1990s.

Political tensions escalated last month when Pashinian dismissed the chief of the General Staff, Onik Gasparian, after the prime minister accused high-ranking military officers of attempting a coup by calling on him to resign.

Supporters of Pashinian and the opposition have been staging competing rallies in the capital amid the crisis.

In an attempt to defuse the crisis, Pashinian has offered to hold snap parliamentary elections later this year but rejected the opposition’s demand to step down before the vote.

Pashinian has defended the November deal as the only way to prevent the Azerbaijani Army from overrunning the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Russia has deployed about 2,000 peacekeepers to monitor the agreement.

With reporting by AP
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