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Violence erupts in central Yerevan (VIDEO)

Large rallies have continued in the Armenian capital, with protesters demanding that PM Nikol Pashinyan’s government step down

Armenian police detain a protestor during demonstration in downtown Yerevan on September 20, 2023. ©  AFP / Karen Minasyan

Mass protests continued in the Armenian capital for the second straight day on Wednesday, prompted by a new escalation in Azerbaijan’s breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Protesters gathered in Yerevan’s government quarter, denouncing Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan as a “traitor” to the Armenian people and demanding that he step down over what they view as his failure to help the predominantly ethnically Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The rally was marred by violence, as protesters trying to breach government buildings faced off against a large police force guarding them. 

Footage from the scene shows police officers clad in riot gear scuffling with the crowd. Several people were reportedly injured during the skirmishes.

By late Wednesday, however, the unrest had seemingly waned, as most protesters had left the government quarter.

A separate rally was held outside Russia’s embassy in Yerevan by protesters blaming the Nagorno-Karabakh situation on Moscow. Many demonstrators were seen waving US, EU, and even Ukrainian flags, as well as ripping up and burning Russian passports.

READ MORE: Russian peacekeepers killed in Nagorno-Karabakh – Moscow

The new flare-up in Nagorno-Karabakh started on Tuesday when Baku launched what it called an “anti-terrorist” operation in the breakaway region. The Azerbaijani military made rapid gains against local forces until a ceasefire on Wednesday brokered by Russian peacekeepers deployed to the region seemingly put a halt to the hostilities. 

Armenia, which has long maintained close ties with the region, has distanced itself from the new conflict, only denouncing it as an “another large-scale aggression against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh” and alleging that Baku harbored plans of “ethnic cleansing” against the local population. 

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev hailed the outcome of the operation as a major success, stating that the country had restored its sovereignty over the region. Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan after a bloody war in the 1990s, which erupted shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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