Several thousand people protested on Wednesday in the Armenian capital, Yerevan as anger mounted over Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s decision to cede swathes of disputed territory to Azerbaijan under a controversial peace deal.
Pashinyan announced a Russian-brokered peace agreement with Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region in the early hours of Tuesday, ending weeks of intense fighting that left more than 1,400 people dead and displaced tens of thousands.
The peace accord sparked celebrations in Azerbaijan, but fury in Armenia, where demonstrators stormed government buildings and demanded Pashinyan’s resignation.
“It’s our history, our culture, our soul that we’re losing. Not to mention the useless sacrifice of thousands of our men, killed or injured,” said Jenny, a student in Yerevan.
More than 400 Russian peacekeepers deployed on Wednesday to Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan seized by ethnic Armenian separatists in a 1990s war, where fierce clashes had raged for more than six weeks.
In Yerevan, police hauled off demonstrators from a gathering of several thousand who were calling the prime minister a “traitor” in front of government headquarters.
“You will not be able to stop the whole country,” Arman Abovyan, a member of the Prosperous Armenia party, shouted through a megaphone to people who had rallied despite a ban on public gatherings while martial law was in place.
Police said that 135 people were detained and then released.
Ten prominent opposition figures were arrested yesterday over their role in organizing protests, hours before a new protest was scheduled in Yerevan. Gagik Tsarukyan of Prosperous Armenia, Ishkhan Sagateyan of the Dashnaktsutyun party and eight other politicians were arrested for organizing “illegal violent mass disorder,” prosecutors said.
They face up to 10 years in jail if convicted.
In New York, the UN Security Council held an informal meeting on the ceasefire deal at Russia’s request, diplomats said.
It was not immediately clear whether Moscow would seek a resolution or declaration backing the pact.
Clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenian separatists broke out in late September. More than 1,400 people were confirmed killed, including dozens of civilians, but the real death toll is believed to be significantly higher.
Speaking with wounded servicemen on Wednesday, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev accused Armenians of destroying “99 percent of the liberated territory,” including hospitals, houses and monuments, adding that he wanted Armenia to pay compensation.
“They will have to answer for their dirty deeds,” he said.
Armenian Deputy Minister of Culture Narine Tukhikyan voiced Yerevan’s own concern over the fate of the historic, religious and cultural heritage in territory taken by Azerbaijan.
“We are extremely worried because we have already seen the desecration and destruction of Khachkars [traditional Armenian stone steles] by the Azeris,” Tukhikyan told reporters.
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