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Unrest, Political Crisis Hit Armenia Over Nagorno-Karabakh Losses

Protesters storm the parliamentary assembly in Yerevan on November 10 after Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said he had signed an agreement with the leaders of Russia and Azerbaijan to end the war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenia was plunged into political crisis after opposition groups called on Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian to resign and a night of unrest over a Russian-brokered agreement with Azerbaijan to end fighting over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh left the fate of the deal uncertain.

In chaotic scenes in the capital, hundreds of opposition supporters in the early hours of November 10 stormed the government headquarters in Yerevan and parliament, ransacking offices and smashing windows in an outburst of anger.

Parliament Speaker Ararat Mirzoyan was injured in a mob attack and hospitalized, drawing a sharp rebuke from the government.

President Armen Sarkisian's office said on November 10 that he was launching "political consultations” to build national unity and "coordinate…solutions arising from our agenda of protecting national interests."

Sarkisian said in a statement he had learnt about the agreement to end the fighting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh from the media.

"Unfortunately, there were no consultations or discussions with me, as with the President of the Republic, regarding this document, and I did not participate in any negotiations," he said, insisting that the signing of such an important document involving Armenia's "vital security interests" and the "whole Armenian nation" should have been subjected to "comprehensive consultations and discussions."

Earlier, thousands of angry demonstrators gathered in central Yerevan after Pashinian announced he had signed a Russian-brokered agreement to end six weeks of hostilities with Azerbaijan over the ethnic Armenian separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The backlash over the agreement came after 17 opposition parties issued a joint statement on November 9 calling for Pashinian’s resignation amid a series of military defeats suffered by Armenia-backed ethnic Armenian forces in the enclave fighting against Azerbaijan.

Among the parties that signed the statement were the main parliamentary opposition party, Prosperous Armenia, led by tycoon Gagik Tsarukian, the former ruling Republican Party of former President Serzh Sarkisian, and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutiun).

In his comments following the night of chaos, Pashinian implied that corruption in previous governments was also to blame for the current situation.

"We must prepare for revenge. We haven’t dealt properly with the corrupt, oligarchic scoundrels, those who robbed this country, stole soldiers’ food, stole soldiers' weapons," said Pashinian, a reformist pressing an anti-corruption campaign who came to power in 2018 in the wake of mass popular protests.

"I call on citizens with dignity to be ready for us going after the rioters and their bosses, after the corrupt part of Dashnaktsutyun, after the robbers from the Republican Party, the Prosperous Armenia Party, the deserters from the Hayrenik party who left their combat positions and fled, and must be tried for desertion," he charged.

The trilateral agreement between Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia to end fighting comes as Azerbaijani forces have made major battlefield gains in the six-week flare up of the decades-long conflict.

The agreement would see Azerbaijan keep territory in Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas captured during the conflict. It also calls for Armenian forces to hand over some areas they held outside the borders of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Nagorno-Karabakh is recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but the ethnic Armenians who make up most of the population reject Azerbaijani rule.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Armenian Service