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Embattled Armenian Party's Leader Quits Amid Pressure

Prosperous Armenia Party leader Gagik Tsarukian speaks at an awards ceremony near Yerevan in December.

YEREVAN -- The tycoon founder of the opposition Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) has stepped down from his position of party leader.

Gagik Tsarukian announced his decision to renounce his post and as well as "active politics" at the BHK congress on March 5.

Naira Zohrabian was elected as party leader at Tsarukian's recommendation.

Zohrabian told reporters later that Tsarukian will stay on as an NHK member and a lawmaker.

On February 12, President Serzh Sarkisian told leaders of the ruling Republican Party that Tsarukian was "evil" and should not be allowed in politics.

Several BHK members were later detained on what the authorities say is suspicion of illegal weapons possession.

BHK lawmakers boycotted a four-day parliament session last week, protesting what they said was a government crackdown on Tsarukian.