YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)—Riot police made at least 18 arrests on Wednesday as they scuffled with opposition activists holding protests across Yerevan to try to drum up popular support for an opposition bid to oust Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
Armenia’s two main opposition alliances launched the protests on Monday in advance of mass anti-government demonstrations planned by them. They say that Pashinyan’s removal from power would prevent sweeping concessions to Azerbaijan planned by him.
Groups of opposition members and supporters staged “awareness marches,” blocked streets and entered university campuses in Yerevan for the third consecutive day.
Traffic through one of those streets was disrupted for several minutes. Riot police forcibly unblocked it, detaining several protesters in the process.
The Armenian police reported afterwards that 18 opposition activists were arrested in various parts of the city by early afternoon.
Eleven others were detained on Tuesday. Three of them remained in police custody the following day, risking “hooliganism” charges. The police did not clarify what exactly they could be prosecuted for.
Benik Galstyan, a lawyer representing the detainees, said that he too does not know why they were not set free. He said he has petitioned a Yerevan court to order their release.
Gegham Manukyan, an opposition lawmaker who visited the activists in custody in the morning, denounced the criminal proceedings as “absurd.”
“One of the guys was arrested last night on the grounds of evading a criminal investigation,” Manukyan told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “In fact, he rushed to the Investigative Committee immediately after they phoned him during the protest.”
Meanwhile, two groups of other opposition groups continued to march to Yerevan from southern Ararat and northern Tavush provinces. One of them was led by Anna Grigoryan, another lawmaker affiliated with the opposition Hayastan alliance.
Grigoryan said that she is encouraged by their reception in Ararat villages located along a highway leading to the Armenian capital. “The spirits are high because we are fighting for an idea, and that unity will lead us to victory,” she said.
Hayastan and the other opposition bloc, Pativ Unem, have scheduled their first rally for this Sunday. They already jointly rallied thousands of supporters in Yerevan’s Liberty Square on April 5 to warn Pashinyan against agreeing to restore Azerbaijan’s control over Nagorno-Karabakh.
The prime minister met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Brussels the following day for talks hosted by European Council President Charles Michel.
Speaking in the parliament on April 13, Pashinyan said the international community is pressing Armenia to scale back its demands on Karabakh’s status and recognize Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. He signaled Yerevan’s intention to make such concessions to Baku.
Pro-government lawmakers maintain that Pashinyan did not call for the restoration of Azerbaijani control of Karabakh. They have accused the opposition of exploiting the issue in a bid to seize power.