STEPANAKERT—The three-day streets protests in Artsakh’s capital resulted in the resignation of Wednesday of the country’s state minister and the heads of the national security service and the chief of police.
State Minister Arayik Harutyunyan, whose position was created to replace the office of prime minister, held a press conference to announce his resignation, citing popular demands for change, which were emphasized during the three-day protests, although protesters did not demand his resignation but that of the NSS and police chiefs.
The security chiefs also tendered their resignation later on Wednesday.
The protests began in earnest on Saturday after two people were beaten by NSS officers a night before, resulting in the arrest of 15 people, among the NSS members. Stepanakert resident began blocking streets and converging on the city’s main bus depot demanding the resignation of the NSS and police chiefs. The protests ended Monday night after a plea from Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan who urged the demonstrators to allow Artsakh government officials time to address their demands.
In announcing his resignation, Artsakh Police chief Major-General Kamo Aghajanyan, said the move was prompted by popular calls for him to step down.
Artsakh’s National Security Service director Leutenant-General Arshavir Gharamyan and his deputy, Colonel Gagik Sargsyan, also resigned without citing reasons.
At the press briefing, Harutyunyan, the outgoing state minister, said his decision to step down stemmed from public demand for change and new phase of reforms in the country.
“During the past several months, particularly after the latest events in Armenia—after the ‘velvet revolution-‘—the people of Artsakh also demanded changes,” said Harutyunyan, who said that he had been discussing the next phase of reforms with Artsakh President Bako Sahakian in that past month.
“I want to be more independent and to more freely participate in the needed reforms in Artsakh by expressing my opinions, and why not also voicing criticisms,” added Harutyunyan, who said his Free Homeland party, which holds a majority in Artsakh’s parliament will actively take part in the 2020 Artsakh elections, which include a vote for president.
In 2017, the people of Artsakh overwhelmingly approved a new constitution that gave broad powers to the office of the president and extended the opportunity for Sahakian to seek a third term.
“I am convinced that we have selected the right path for ongoing reforms in the country,” said Harutyunyan who brushed aside speculation of Sahakian’s resignation, adding that more personnel changes were in store in the coming days.
President Sahakian appointed Artsakh’s current finance minister Grigory Martirosyan to replace Harutytunyan as state minister. Arthur Haroutyunyan [no relation to Arayik] was appointed Artsakh’s Finance Minister.
The NSS director Gharamyan was replaced by Colonel Samvel Shahramanyan, while Colonel Igor Grigoryan was appointed Artsakh Police chief, replacing the outgoing Aghajanyan.