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Armenian PM denounces coup attempt after army demands his resignation

YEREVAN: Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan warned of an attempted military coup against him after the army demanded he and his government resign.

Pashinyan has faced protests and calls to quit over his handling of a six-week conflict between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh last year. Pashinyan has rejected calls to step down. “The most important problem now is to keep the power in the hands of the people, because I consider what is happening to be a military coup,” he said.

On Thursday, he called on followers to rally in the centre of the capital, Yerevan, to support him and took to Facebook to address the nation in a livestream. “I consider the statement of the General Staff of the Armed Forces an attempted military coup. I invite all of our supporters to Republic Square right now,” he wrote, referring to a central square in the capital Yerevan.

Pashinyan dismissed the head of the general staff of the armed forces Onik Gasparyan and said a replacement would be announced later. He said the crisis would be overcome constitutionally.

Khachatryan had ridiculed claims by Pashinyan that Iskander missiles supplied by Russia had failed to hit targets during last year’s war over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. The statement said the firing was made “exclusively on the basis of the personal feelings and ambitions” of Pashinyan.

Pashinyan and his government “are not capable of taking adequate decisions,” the statement said, denouncing “attacks by the authorities aimed at discrediting the Armed Forces.”

Arayik Harutyunyan, the president of the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, offered to act as a mediator between Pashinyan and the general staff. Ethnic Armenian troops ceded swathes of territory in and around Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan in a conflict last year that killed thousands of people.

A ceasefire signed by leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia last November halted military action in and around the enclave, which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but populated by ethnic Armenians. Some 2,000 Russian peacekeeping troops are now being deployed to the region. Russia also has a military base in Armenia.

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