RFE/RL Armenian Report – 02/23/2021

                                        Tuesday, February 23, 2021

RFE/RL Journalists Attacked By Opposition Protesters
February 23, 2021
        • Artak Khulian

Armenia- Opposition supporters protest outside the Armenian police headquarters 
in Yerevan , February 23, 2021.

A correspondent and a cameraman of RFE/RL’s Armenian Service were assaulted 
while covering an opposition demonstration in Yerevan on Tuesday.
Several participants of the demonstration kicked the journalists and shouted 
abuse at them. They also damaged the crew’s video camera.

The incident took place as hundreds of supporters of the opposition Homeland 
Salvation Movement marched through the city center to demand Prime Minister 
Nikol Pashinian’s resignation.

The crowd stopped by the main entrances to the headquarters of Armenia’s police 
and National Security Service to condemn what opposition leaders described as a 
government crackdown on Pashinian’s vocal critics.

Envoy Confirms Russian Military Aid To Armenia
February 23, 2021

Armenia - Russian Ambassador to Armenia Sergey Kopyrkin holds a news conference, 
June 11, 2019

The Russian ambassador in Yerevan, Sergei Kopyrkin, confirmed on Tuesday that 
Russia is helping Armenia restructure and modernize its armed forces following 
the recent war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenian Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian reported such assistance in an 
interview with the Russian RIA Novosti news agency published on Monday. He said 
concrete “recommendations” have already been made on how to rearm the Armenian 
army in the current circumstances but did not give any details.

“Very intensive contacts are now underway between the defense ministries of 
Russia and Armenia in various directions,” Kopyrkin told reporters, commenting 
on Harutiunian’s remarks.

Asked whether Moscow is indeed ready to provide such military aid to Yerevan, he 
said: “Russia is already doing that.”

Kopyrkin did not go into details. Also, he did not deny or confirm Harutiunian’s 
assertion that the Russian military base in Armenia will be expanded in view of 
the post-war “military-political realities in the region.” The envoy said only 
that the two sides are now looking into ways of “strengthening cooperation 
between our countries and armed forces.”

Yerevan announced plans to further deepen Russian-Armenian military ties shortly 
after the war with Azerbaijan stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire on 
November 10. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian stated on New Year’s Eve that his 
country now needs “new security guarantees.”

Late last month, a delegation led by Colonel-General Sergei Istrakov, the deputy 
chief of the Russian military’s General Staff, visited Yerevan for nearly 
weeklong negotiations with the Armenian army’s top brass. According to 
Harutiunian, the talks were aimed at “assisting us in the reform and 
modernization of Armenia’s armed forces.”

Dozens Detained At Anti-Government Protest In Yerevan
February 23, 2021
        • Artak Khulian

Armenia -- Riot police detain an anti-government protester in Yerevan, February 
23, 2021.

Dozens of members and supporters of an Armenian opposition alliance were 
detained on Tuesday as they attempted to stop Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian 
from entering a government building in Yerevan.

The Homeland Salvation Movement alliance had urged supporters to surround the 
building that houses several government ministers as part of its ongoing 
campaign of street protests aimed at forcing Pashinian to resign.

The high-rise was cordoned off in the morning by scores of riot police that kept 
protesters at bay and enabled Pashinian to enter it and hold a meeting with 
senior officials from the Armenian Ministry of Environment.

More than 50 protesters were detained on the spot. Gegham Manukian, a senior 
opposition figure, claimed that the police made more than 100 arrests.

Manukian said security forces tried unsuccessfully to detain Ishkhan 
Saghatelian, who coordinates the opposition movement’s day-to-day activities. 
“We didn’t let them do that,” he told reporters.

According to eyewitnesses, Saghatelian was injured in an apparent scuffle with 
the riot police.

Armenia -- Riot police cordon off a government building during an opposition 
protest, Yerevan, February 23, 2021.

Manukian insisted that the latest opposition protest was not a failure. He 
argued that Pashinian had to “bring in several thousand police officers to be 
able to walk 200 meters in the city.”

The Homeland Salvation Movement, which comprises more than a dozen opposition 
parties, blames Pashinian for Armenia’s defeat in the autumn war in 
Nagorno-Karabakh and wants him to resign. The prime minister has rejected the 
opposition demands, leading the alliance to resume its anti-government protests 
on Saturday.

Saghatelian and other opposition leaders have pledged to hold daily 
demonstrations this week in a bid to step up the pressure on Pashinian. They and 
their supporters were due to again march through the center of Yerevan later on 

Baku Again Accused Of Delaying Armenian Prisoner Release
February 23, 2021
        • Naira Nalbandian

Armenia - Foreign Minister Ara Ayvazian.

Armenia on Tuesday again accused Azerbaijan of “artificially” delaying the 
release of Armenian soldiers and civilians remaining in Azerbaijani captivity 
more than three months after a Russian-brokered ceasefire stopped the war in 

The ceasefire agreement calls for the unconditional release of all prisoners 
held by the conflicting sides. Russian peacekeeping forces deployed in Karabakh 
have arranged several prisoner swaps over the last two months.

A total of 64 Armenian prisoners of war (POWs) and civilians have been freed to 
date. More than 100 others are believed to remain in Azerbaijani captivity.

Foreign Minister Ara Ayvazian said Baku’s reluctance to free them constitutes a 
serious violation of the truce agreement and hampers the resumption of 
Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks.

“We are committed to the resumption of the settlement process but there must 
first and foremost be formed an environment conducive to peace. Prerequisites 
for that are not yet visible on the Azerbaijani side,” he said at a meeting with 
members of a standing committee of the Armenian parliament.

Speaking with reporters after the meeting, Ayvazian said that Baku is facing 
growing international pressure to release the remaining Armenian prisoners.

“As expected, Azerbaijan’s policy of creating artificial obstacles to the return 
of prisoners is slowly becoming a headache for Azerbaijan,” he claimed. “We hope 
that Azerbaijan will abandon this policy of hostage taking and will immediately 
solve this important humanitarian issue.”

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian reportedly raised the issue with Russian 
President Vladimir Putin when they last spoke by phone on February 17.

The Russian ambassador to Armenia, Sergei Kopyrkin, insisted on Tuesday that 
Moscow keeps doing its best to secure the release of all Armenian captives. “The 
work is not easy but it continues to be carried out persistently,” Kopyrkin told 

Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
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