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Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan has resigned less than a week after he was appointed, according to a statement published Monday afternoon on his official website. His resignation comes as widespread protests against his rule entered their 11th day in the capital Yerevan.
‘Nikol Pashinyan was right. I was wrong. There are some solutions to the current situation, but I will not go into any of them. They do not belong to me. I’m leaving the post of Armenian Prime Minister. The street movement is against my tenure. I fulfil your demand. Peace, harmony, and common sense to our country’, Serzh Sargsyan wrote.
Release of Nikol Pashinyan
On Monday afternoon, opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan, the figurehead of the protests, and several other protest leaders were released from custody.
Greeting cheering crowds in Yerevan’s central Republic Square, Pashinyan said he was in ‘negotiations’ with the authorities.
Pashinyan, an MP and leader of the opposition Civil Contract party, along with MPs Sasun Mikaelyan and Ararat Mirzoyan, also from the Civil Contract party were detained Sunday, more than an hour after Pashinyan’s meeting with Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan, who rejected Pashinyan’s demands for his resignation.
RFE/RL quoted police as denying the opposition leaders had been detained, saying the three ‘were forcibly taken from the site’ of an ‘illegal rally’. They were later charged with violating the Law on Freedom of Assembly, according to EVN Report.
Following their detention, crowds estimated at over 100,000 people came out onto Yerevan’s central Republic Square Sunday evening.
[Read more on OC Media: Protest leaders arrested in Armenia as PM walks out of talks]
Tens of thousands of demonstrators came out into the streets in an 11th day of protests and civil disobedience, with gatherings also reported outside the capital in Gyumri, Vanadzor, Ashtarak, and others.
People dancing and cheering in the streets (Armine Avetisyan /OC Media)
On Monday afternoon, the leader of Prosperous Armenia party, Gagik Tsarukyan announced that his party was ‘joining the people’. Prosperous Armenia won 33 seats in Armenia’s parliament, the National Assembly, out of 131 in the 2017 elections and is the second biggest party in parliament after the ruling Republican Party.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told TASS before Sargsyan’s resignation that the protests were Armenia’s ‘internal affair’. He said that Russia was closely monitoring the situation, but hinted that Russia was not planning to ‘interfere’.
Serzh Sargsyan stepped down as President on 9 April as part of ongoing constitutional reforms to change the government from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary system.
Having previously played down suggestions he would run again for political office, Sargsyan announced on 11 April that he would seek the position of Prime Minister, now the most powerful post in the country. On 17 April, he was sworn in as PM by Armenia’s parliament, the National Assembly.
Protests loosely organised around the slogan ‘No to Serzh’, have been held since March, with thousands coming out into the streets daily since 13 April, in what Pashinyan has called a ‘velvet revolution’.