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Armenian police detain over 170 as demarcation protests continue 

13 May 2024
Police detaining a protester against the delimitation process in Yerevan. Image via RFE/RL.

Over 170 people have been detained during acts of civil disobedience in Yerevan to protest Armenia’s unilateral handover of territory to Azerbaijan during the initial phase of the two countries’ demarcation process.

Several thousand people began blocking streets in the capital early Monday morning. Several Armenian media outlets reported that police had used disproportionate force while detaining people.

As of around 14:00, the police reported that no streets remained blocked. Those detained were also released Monday afternoon.

The planned civil disobedience was announced during a Sunday rally in which protest leader, Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan, said there would be ‘total strikes to paralyse the city’. Galstanyan stated that they had not given up on their plan to oust Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. 

‘We have set our problem, we have defined the goal, we have decided that we need a new government, a government of the people, a government of pain, a government of suffering, a government of reconciliation’, Galstanyan said.

There has been widespread speculation that Galstanyan may be aiming to lead a new government.

Speaking before a demonstration of around 20,000 people in Yerevan on 9 May protest, Galstanyan did not rule out taking the role if the public ‘demanded’ it of him. However, he also admitted to having dual Canadian–Armanian citizenship, which under the current legislation would preclude him from becoming prime minister.


Galstanyan added that the country should undertake a ‘fundamental change’ in foreign policy, excluding both anti-Russian and anti-Western positions and adopting a flexible policy of containment. 

Since the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War, and subsequent incursions into Armenia by Azerbaijan that went unanswered by Russia, Armenia has moved away from its traditional ally fostering closer ties with the West.

Galstanyan accused Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of lying, applying false theses, ‘prosecuting the Armenian Church’, spreading a culture of hatred, threatening war, and ‘degrading’ the army.

A contentious demarcation

The protests led by Galstanyan started over frustration with the government's decision to kickstart a unilateral border delimitation process, with Armenia returning several Azerbaijani villages it had controlled since the First Nagorno-Karabakh War without Azerbaijan returning the Armenian territories it controlled or captured between 2021 and 2023. 

Addressing the issue from the stage on 12 May, Archbishop Galstanyan said that the movement was not against demarcation in principle, but that it should take place within a broader peace treaty, and ‘according to the laws of Armenia, international agreements with the involvement of guarantors’. 

As the protests have gained momentum, Armenia’s ruling Civil Contract Party accused Galstanyan of being backed by the Kremlin. Pashinyan also personally accused the protesters of risking provoking war with Azerbaijan. The government has insisted that Azerbaijan was planning military action to take control of the abandoned Azerbaijani villages that Armenia handed over.

The border demarcation deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan was announced on 19 April, with Yerevan and Baku saying they had ‘provisionally agreed’ to align some parts of the Tavush–Gazakh border with the internal borders that existed at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

According to the agreement, Armenian forces will withdraw from the abandoned Azerbaijani villages of Baghanis Ayrim, Asagi Eskipara, Heyrimli, and Kizilhacili.  The exact agreement of the coordinates of this section of the border are due to be agreed upon and signed by 15 May, after which the border in these areas will be considered demarcated. 

Read in Georgian on On.ge.
Read in Russian on SOVA.News.