The latest escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh has triggered unrest in Yerevan
Protesters fly the flag of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in central Yerevan, Armenia on September 19, 2023. © Sputnik / Asatur Yesayants
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan warned about a possible “coup” looming over Yerevan on Tuesday amidst widespread protests erupting in response to the escalating tensions in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
“As expected, various statements come from different places, up to calls for staging of a coup in Armenia,” Pashinyan said in a statement, pledging to uphold “law and order” and react to the alleged “coup attempts” accordingly.
Earlier in the day, Azerbaijan declared the implementation of “counter-terrorism measures of a local nature” in Nagorno-Karabakh, alleging that Armenia had secretly bolstered its military presence in the breakaway region. Baku maintains that it is exclusively targeting military installations in the area. Armenia, for its part, has characterized this escalation as a fresh “large-scale aggression against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh,” but it has denied deploying any units to the disputed region.
The escalation sparked turmoil in Armenia, as hundreds of protesters flooded the streets of Yerevan. They congregated in the heart of the Armenian capital and attempted to disrupt traffic. The demonstrators called for Armenia’s military involvement in the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis, accusing Prime Minister Pashinyan of being a “traitor” to their nation.
Nagorno-Karabakh, primarily inhabited by ethnic Armenians, seceded from Azerbaijan during the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In the 1990s, the separatist republic waged a full-scare war for independence against Baku, effectively establishing its autonomy and maintaining strong connections with Yerevan over the years. Despite these ties, Armenia has never officially acknowledged it as an independent state or made efforts to integrate the breakaway region into its own territory.
The contested region, however, has remained a persistent flashpoint in the ongoing tensions between Baku and Yerevan, often experiencing periodic military confrontations. The most significant conflict in recent years unfolded in 2020, leading to Baku reclaiming control over substantial portions of Nagorno-Karabakh. The hostilities concluded through a ceasefire brokered by Russia, subsequently facilitating the deployment of Russian peacekeepers to the disputed area.
Since then, Yerevan has repeatedly accused Moscow of not delivering military assistance to counter Azerbaijan and of breaching its obligations. On the other side, Baku has asserted its commitment to enforcing the terms of the trilateral agreement involving Yerevan and Moscow regarding the peacekeeping mission. It has stated that it informed Russian forces of its intentions to launch its so-called counter-terrorism operation.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Azerbaijan’s warning was relayed just “minutes before military action began.”