Assassination attempt on Armenia’s Nikol Pashinyan foiled, government says

Plot by former officials to ‘illegally usurp power’ prevented amid ceasefire turmoil

Kate Ng
Saturday 14 November 2020 21:55
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<p>Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan during his address to the nation in Yerevan, Armenia</p>

Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan during his address to the nation in Yerevan, Armenia

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An attempt to assassinate the prime minister of Armenia and seize power by a group of former officials has been thwarted, the country’s National Security Service (NSS) said on Saturday.

Nikol Pashinyan has faced pressure as thousands of demonstrators have been protesting since Tuesday, demanding he resign over a ceasefire that secured territorial advances for Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh after six weeks of fighting.

The NSS said its former head Artur Vanetsyan, the former head of the Republican Party parliamentary faction Vahram Baghdasaryan and war volunteer Ashot Minasyan were under arrest.

"The suspects were planning to illegally usurp power by murdering the prime minister and there were already potential candidates being discussed to replace him," said the NSS in a statement.

Mr Pashinyan said earlier this week he had no choice but to sign the agreement to prevent further territorial losses, calling the situation a “catastrophe”. He said he was taking personal responsibility for the setbacks, but rejected calls to step down.

The ceasefire halted military action in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but populated by ethnic Armenians. It calls for the deployment of nearly 2,000 Russian peacekeeping troops and territorial concessions.

Since the early 1990s, ethnic Armenians had held military control over all of Nagorno-Karabakh and substantial swathes of Azeri territory surrounding it. They have now lost much of the enclave itself as well as the surrounding territory.

The deal was celebrated in Azerbaijan but sparked widespread anger among Armenians, who immediately demanded the pact be invalidated.

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