Armenia: Pashinyan Defends Yerevan Police After Bloody Clashes With Demonstrators


(RFE/RL) — Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has defended police actions taken on June 12 against demonstrators outside parliament where he was participating in a regular question period that saw him indicate Armenia would withdraw completely from the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

An Interior Ministry spokesperson told RFE/RL that as of 8 p.m. local time 70 people had been detained and there were injuries among both the protesters and the police in scuffles in central Yerevan.

“There are people who have applied for medical help,” a spokesperson of the health minister told RFE/RL, without specifying the number of people injured.

Police “justly used” a stun grenade after the leader of the protest, Archbishop Bagrat Galstanian, “directed people to attack the police,” saidparliament speaker Alen Simonian.

The police performed “the functions assigned to them by the law strictly within the framework of the law,” Pashinisn said.

He added that all photos showing victims will be examined, and if it is found that illegal acts occurred, the state will respond appropriately.

During the question period, Pashinian told parliament that his government will decide later when to leave the CSTO, an alliance of six ex-Soviet states — Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

Pashinian has repeatedly said that he could pull his country out of the alliance altogether unless it addressed Yerevan’s concerns.

Armenia announced on May 8 that it had stopped making financial contributions to the CSTO. It had previously suspended its participation in joint military drills, high-level meetings, and other activities.

Tensions between Armenia and Russia arose after Armenian authorities accused Russian peacekeepers of failing to stop Azerbaijan’s lightning offensive in September 2023 that gave Baku full control of Nagorno-Karabakh, which had been controlled by ethnic Armenians with Yerevan’s support for decades.

Moscow rejected the accusations, arguing that its troops didn’t have a mandate to intervene. Armenia requested Russian military support after weeks of hostilities along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in September 2022.

The Kremlin more recently has been angered by Pashinian’s efforts to deepen Armenia’s ties with the West and distance his country from Moscow.

Armenian opposition groups have said that an exit from the CSTO and a breakup of Armenia’s broader military alliance with Russia would create a dangerous security vacuum that cannot be filled by Western powers and would only encourage Azerbaijan to launch new attacks.

Pashinian made his CSTO comments amid protests led by Galstanian, the outspoken 53-year-old head of the Tavush Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, against plans to hand over several border areas to Azerbaijan as part of a peace deal.

Galstanian has attracted tens of thousands of demonstrators with his Tavush for the Motherland movement in an unprecedented challenge to Pashinian’s six-year leadership.

Earlier on June 12, Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said that the withdrawal of Russian troops from Nagorno-Karabakh had been completed. Moscow has yet to confirm the statement by Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry.


RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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