Thousands of demonstrators converged in central Yerevan on Tuesday, September 19, in a fervent display of solidarity demanding official intervention to safeguard Armenians residing in Nagorno-Karabakh. Protesters demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan after he denounced a ‘coup’ following Azerbaijan's attacks on Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Streets were brought to a standstill as impassioned citizens clashed with law enforcement, resulting in the use of stun grenades by police forces. According to Armenia's Health Ministry, a total of 34 individuals were injured in the confrontations, underscoring the intensity of the clashes. Among those harmed, 16 were law enforcement officers, while 18 were civilians caught in the crossfire. The ministry confirmed that nearly half of the injured individuals are still receiving medical treatment.
The protests underscore the growing concerns and distress within the Armenian populace regarding the precarious situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. As tensions escalate, the demand for decisive action from the authorities to protect the Armenian population in Nagorno-Karabakh is becoming increasingly urgent.
The clash between demonstrators and law enforcement represents a visible manifestation of the frustrations and anxieties prevalent within the Armenian community. These events have brought to the forefront the urgency for diplomatic measures and effective political engagement to address the escalating tensions and violence that threaten the lives and security of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The protests in Yerevan follow a sharp escalation of hostilities, Azerbaijan's armed forces launched a relentless barrage of artillery fire targeting Armenian positions in Nagorno-Karabakh on Tuesday. The assault resulted in a grim toll, leaving scores of casualties, including both civilians and troops, strewn across the contested region.
Azerbaijan's presidential administration firmly stands its ground, labeling the military operation as an "anti-terrorist" endeavor. The administration declares that this operation will persist until what it perceives as "illegal Armenian military formations" capitulate, and the separatist government of Nagorno-Karabakh disbands.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken calls for an end of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh stating, “The United States is deeply concerned by Azerbaijan’s military actions in Nagorno-Karabakh and calls on Azerbaijan to cease these actions immediately. These actions are worsening an already dire humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and undermine prospects for peace. As we have previously made clear to Azerbaijan, the use of force to resolve disputes is unacceptable and runs counter to efforts to create conditions for a just and dignified peace in the region.”
Across the pond, Thomas de Waal, a regional specialist at the Carnegie Europe foundation says, “It looks like it could be, unfortunately, terrible – war number three, something that people have been fearing but hoping to avoid with diplomacy in the last few weeks and months.”
Despite Armenia’s historic alliance with Russia, marked notably by hosting a Russian military base, relations have noticeably taken a downturn in the past year. Armenia has voiced grievances against Russian peacekeepers admonishing them for their inadequacy of maintaining access through the Lachin corridor to allow food, gas, and medical supplies from Armenia to Artsakh. Responding to Armenia's call for Russian peacekeepers to quell the current hostilities, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova countered, "What about Yerevan’s recognizing Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan?"