Saturday, Opposition Sets Ultimatum For Armenian PM To Resign Armenia -- Opposition supporters demonstrate at Liberty Square in Yerevan, December 5, 2020. A coalition of 16 Armenian opposition parties gave Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian until Tuesday to step down or face nationwide protests as it again rallied thousands of supporters in Yerevan on Saturday. Holding their biggest rally so far, opposition leaders stood by their demands for the formation of an interim government and conduct of snap general elections. They again blamed Pashinian for sweeping Armenian territorial losses in and around Nagorno-Karabakh suffered during the recent war with Azerbaijan. The anti-government street protests were sparked by a Russian-brokered ceasefire that stopped the six-week war on November 10. The opposition forces accuse Pashinian’s government of mishandling the war and capitulating to Baku. They held their latest demonstration three days after nominating veteran politician Vazgen Manukian as a caretaker prime minister who they believe should prepare for and hold the elections within a year. “We could have prevented the war,” Manukian told thousands of people who gathered in Yerevan’s Liberty Square. “We could have won the war. We could have ended the war earlier and with minor losses.” Manukian made clear that his interim administration would not walk away from the Armenian-Azerbaijani ceasefire agreement. He said it would seek instead to ensure that the agreement’s ambiguous provisions are interpreted in Armenia’s favor. The crowd then marched to Pashinian’s official residence tightly guarded by riot police and other security forces. Ishkhan Saghatelian, a leader of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), read out the opposition ultimatum there. “Nikol must go. Period,” he said. Saghatelian warned that the opposition will launch a nationwide campaign of “civil disobedience” if Pashinian fails to announce his resignation by Tuesday noon. The idea of an interim government and fresh elections is also backed by President Armen Sarkissian and a growing number of public figures. Pashinian has rejected it so far. The prime minister again signaled no plans to resign or agree to snap polls in a televised address to the nation aired on Saturday morning. He said he is not clinging to power and only wants to ensure that “the people stay in power.” Pashinian emphasized the fact that Armenia’s last parliamentary elections, held in December 2018 and won by his My Step bloc, were widely recognized as democratic. In an apparent reference to the country’s former leaders, he said that “some circles” want to come to power through a fraudulent vote. President Sarkissian insisted, meanwhile, that Armenia is in a “deep post-war crisis.” “The government cannot act in the spirit of the [public] mood of 2018,” he said in a statement issued later in the day. “Today’s reality is completely different.” Kocharian, Pashinian Engage In Bitter War Of Words Armenia -- Former President Robert Kocharian attends hearings at the Court of Appeals, Yerevan, December 9, 2019. Former President Robert Kocharian provoked a furious response from Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on Saturday after joining the Armenian opposition in blaming him for the outcome of the Nagorno-Karabakh war and demanding his resignation. In a televised interview aired late on Friday, Kocharian charged that Pashinian’s government made the war “inevitable” with reckless diplomacy and miscalculations of Armenia’s military potential and needs. He said its “grave blunders” committed during the war predetermined Azerbaijan’s victory. The sweeping territorial losses suffered by the Armenian side stripped Pashinian of his legitimacy, Kocharian told the Fifth Channel TV station in his first public remarks made since the outbreak of the six-week war stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire on November 10. “I can recall only one case in history where a state lost [a war] but did not change its government,” he said. “It was [after] the first war in Iraq in 1991. Saddam Hussein stayed in power, using his entire totalitarian system. He ended up badly: they hanged him.” “It is only natural that a defeated government must be replaced,” added the man who ruled Armenia from 1998-2008. Pashinian hit back at Kocharian and Armenia’s other former leaders in a televised address to the nation aired the following morning. “We failed not in diplomacy but in our attempts to offset diplomatic failures of the last 20-25 years,” he said. Pashinian claimed that Karabakh peace proposals made by the United States, Russia and France during and after Kocharian’s rule were not favorable for Armenia and Karabakh. He went on to accuse the country’s former rulers of not doing enough to strengthen the Armenian military and illegally enriching themselves instead. “The reason for our failure is that Armenia was a corrupt state for at least 25 years,” declared the embattled prime minister. Armenia - Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian addresses the nation, Yerevan, December 5, 2020. The bitter war of words came amid continuing calls for Pashinian’s resignation and snap general elections voiced by opposition groups, a growing number of public figures and even President Armen Sarkissian. The premier has rejected them, saying that he is still trusted by most Armenians. Kocharian urged his supporters to participate in ongoing anti-government demonstrations organized by a coalition of 16 opposition parties. He backed an interim prime minister nominated by them earlier this week. In that context, the 66-year-old ex-president did not deny having political ambitions. “I will try to do everything in my power to help the country overcome this difficult period,” he said. Kocharian has been standing trial on corruption and coup charges that were leveled against him shortly after Pashinian swept to power in the “Velvet Revolution” of April-May 2018. He rejects the accusations as politically motivated. Russia has also criticized the criminal proceedings. Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly made a point of congratulating Kocharian on his birthday anniversaries and praising his legacy. Kocharian on Friday also made a case for Armenia’s “much deeper integration” with Russia. He insisted that only Russia can help his country rearm its armed forces and confront new security challenges in the aftermath of the Karabakh war. This is why, he said, the next Armenian government should be not only more competent but also fully trusted by Moscow. Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL Copyright (c) 2020 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc. 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.