On Friday, a group of Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians gathered in front of the region’s representative office in Yerevan, protesting accommodation issues, unpaid military salaries, and the decree announcing Nagorno-Karabakh’s dissolution.
The region’s outgoing president, Samvel Shahramanyan, stated in response to the protesters that ‘the republic created by the people cannot be dissolved by any document’.
Protesters rallied in front of the Nagorno-Karabakh Permanent Representative’s office in Yerevan, which represents the region and supports Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians in Armenia, on Friday morning, remaining there throughout the day.
After protesters twice broke through a police barricade and entered the building, Shahramanyan held a meeting with a group of protesters, and addressed journalists and the crowd outside.
It marked Shahramanyan’s first public statement since signing a decree to dissolve the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
In his speech to the crowd, he stated that the decision to surrender to Azerbaijan was made in order to bring an end to ‘military operations’, but appeared to call into question the nature of the dissolution decree signed in September.
‘The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is not dissolved. Is there anyone here who has read that document?’ he said. ‘There are a lot of questions related to that document, but I can't say much. The republic established by the people cannot be dissolved by any document’.
Shahramanyan added he would address these issues in an interview with Armenia’s Public TV in the near future.
‘My children sleep in the car’
Those gathered in front of the permanent representative’s office were protesting issues they have been facing since fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh in late September and early October, particularly relating to issues finding housing and the freezing of Nagorno-Karabakh’s state budgets.
Protesters expressed their anger with Nagorno-Karabakh’s outgoing officials, and denied rumours that the protest had been organised by Samvel Babayan, the former Secretary of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Security Council,
One protester stated that no high-ranking officials were among the protesters ‘because they bought houses here with our money’.
‘Let someone come and complain, let a minister come and complain. Let his [president’s] staff come to protest. They don't do this because they all have houses here, and their children are safe. My children sleep in the car’, said the protester.
He also called for Nagorno-Karabakh officials’ houses in Armenia to be confiscated and given to the families of killed soldiers and poor Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians.
One issue highlighted by protesters was that those who had fought during the recent attack on Nagorno-Karabakh had not received their salaries. The region’s state budget has been frozen since October, with Nagorno-Karabakh’s authorities having failed to announce any solution to the issue thus far.
Those gathered also raised the issue faced by a number of civil servants, who were fired last week on the basis of a decision made by Shahramanyan.
After meeting with Shahramanyan, protesters announced that they had not received satisfactory answers to their questions, following which the crowd once again pushed into the building. After the second breach of the police barricade, Shahramanyan came outside to address the protesters.
He stated that the social issues raised would be directed to those institutions responsible for addressing them.
Regarding questions about the future of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Shahramanyan stated that he did not consider it right to discuss those issues publicly, as to do so could be ‘very dangerous’.
Later the same day, protesters attacked head of the president’s staff, Karen Shahramanyan, as he left the permanent representative’s office, pulling at him and tearing at his clothes, and damaging his car. According to RFE/RL, protesters claimed Shahramanyan got the car after ‘the great disaster’ in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Ten people involved in the incident were arrested on charges of ‘hooliganism, violence, and robbery’, with the Investigative Committee statement claiming that a ‘large amount of money’ was taken from the car, along with a mobile phone and license plate.
For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.