Nagorno-Karabakh at issue in Armenian uprising

Armenian security forces on July 31 stormed a police station that had been seized by opposition militants in the capital Yerevan, amid growing protests in the city. Authorities said some 20 militants were arrested and several injured. Gunmen calling themselves the Daredevils of Sassoun seized the police station and took hostages on July 17, and protesters subsequently took to the streets in their support. Security forces have responded with stun grenades and tear-gas leaving scores injured. Militants and protesters alike are demanding release of Jirair Sefilian, leader of the opposition Founding Parliament movement. 

Sefilian, a veteran of the Nagorno-Karabakh war, was imprisoned June 20 after demanding the resignation of President Serzh Sarkisian. The Daredevils of Sassoun are made up of former military men who accuse the government of mishandling the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, where Armenia lost territory in recent fighting with Azerbaijani forces before a Moscow-brokered ceasefire. Local rights groups in Yerevan report an atmosphere of harsh repression, with police storming the homes of perceived sympathizers of the opposition movement, making arbitrary raids and arrests (Sputnik, Aug. 1; Nancy Kricorian blog, July 31; Ianyan, Al Jazeera, July 30; Armenian Weekly, July 25)

Mass opposition protests in Armenia

More than 180 were detained in the Armenian capital, as police tried to stop opposition supporters from blocking streets in protest against the election of former President Serzh Sarkisian as prime minister. Thousands took to the streets of Yerevan for an eighth straight day on April 20, opposing what they say is Sarkisian's attempt to maintain his grip on power after his 10-year stint as president ended two weeks ago. (RFE/RL)

Armenian leader steps down amid protests

Ten days of demonstrations that escalated throughout Armenia forced the resignation April 23 of the man who has led the country for the past decade. Tens of thousands flocked to the central Republic Square in Yerevan, where all afternoon and into the night they danced, cheered and waved the Armenian flag. Serzh Sargsyan, president since 2008, reached his legal two-term limit earlier this month. A constitutional referendum in 2015 had transferred most presidential powers to the role of prime minister, however, and the Parliament, dominated by his right-wing Republican Party, swiftly voted him into the post with no other candidate given a chance. "I was wrong," Sargsyan said in a brief resignation statement. "The street movement is against my tenure. I am fulfilling your demand."

April 24 is Armenia's Genocide Memorial Day, when many of the country's more than 2.6 million people turn out onto the streets. It was expected to quickly turn into a vast anti-Sargsyan demonstration that would have been unthinkable to suppress by force, said Aleksandr M. Iskandaryan, director of the Caucasus Institute in Yerevan. (NYT)