Tuesday, Opposition Politician Goes On Trial • Naira Bulghadarian Armenia - Opposition politician Vazgen Manukian attends the opening session of his trial in Yerevan, . Vazgen Manukian, a veteran politician who led anti-government protests staged by the Armenian opposition this winter, went on trial on Tuesday, accused of calling for a violent overthrow of the constitutional order. The accusation carrying up to three years in prison stems from a statement which Manukian made during a February 20 rally held in Yerevan by a coalition of opposition forces that tried to topple Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian following the autumn war in Nagorno-Karabakh. “We must be ready for revolting and taking power at lightning speed,” he told opposition supporters. He described that as “Plan B” of the opposition campaign for Pashinian’s resignation involving peaceful protests. “We will follow Plan A but must always be ready for Plan B,” said the 75-year-old politician whom the now defunct opposition grouping nominated as an interim prime minister in December. Law-enforcement authorities indicted Manukian in early March, saying that he publicly advocated a violent seizure of power. They refrained from arresting him pending investigation. ARMENIA -- Armenian opposition leader Vazgen Manukian delivers a speech during a rally to demand the resignation of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian in Yerevan, March 1, 2021 Manukian again dismissed the accusation at the start of his trial in Yerevan. He said that his February 20 statement was “much softer” than what Pashinian did during the recent parliamentary election campaign. Manukian said that Pashinian has not been prosecuted for brandishing a hammer, threatening his political opponents and pledging to “purge” the state bureaucracy and wage “political vendettas” against local government officials supporting the opposition. A senior prosecutor insisted last week that Pashinian did not spread hate speech or promise a violent crackdown on the opposition on the campaign trail. He said the premier used the hammer only as a metaphor for a “dictatorship of the law” promised by him. Manukian said he continues to believe that Pashinian is responsible for Armenia’s defeat in the war and unfit to deal with lingering security challenges facing the country. “Everything must to be done to make Pashinian resign,” he told reporters. Manukian was one of the leaders of a political movement that ended Communist rule in Soviet Armenia in 1990 and led the country to independence. He served as prime minister from 1990-1990 and defense minister from 1992-1993. Pashinian Replacing Armenia’s Defense Minister Armenia -- Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian (R) visits a new Armenian army post set up in Syunik province, December 18, 2020. Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian resigned on Tuesday ahead of a post-election cabinet reshuffle planned by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian. Pashinian had appointed the 65-year-old retired general as defense minister on November 20 in the wake of Armenia’s defeat in the six-week war with Azerbaijan. In what appeared to be a related development, Pashinian appointed another general, Arshak Karapetian, as the country’s first deputy defense minister on Tuesday. At least two independent media outlets have reported after the June 20 parliamentary elections that Karapetian will likely replace Harutiunian. The daily Zoghovurd said on Tuesday that he will be named defense minister “several days later,” after Pashinian forms a new cabinet required by Armenian law. Karapetian, 54, is a former chief of Armenian military intelligence who was fired in 2016 following four-day hostilities around Nagorno-Karabakh which left about 80 Armenian soldiers dead. Then President Serzh Sarkisian said the intelligence service failed to obtain “precise information” about the Azerbaijani offensive beforehand. Pashinian appointed Karapetian as his national security adviser seven months after coming to power in May 2018. The prime minister defended the appointment, saying that he has found no evidence of the Armenian military’s “lack of intelligence data.” Several pro-opposition publications claimed at the time that Karapetian was the only high-ranking army officer who agreed to testify against former President Robert Kocharian and thus facilitate his arrest in July 2018 on coup charges. In April this year, Pashinian promoted Karapetian to the post of first deputy chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff. The move followed an unprecedented statement by the army’s top brass accusing the prime minister of misrule and demanding his resignation. Armenian Village Chief Wounded In Border Skirmish • Artak Khulian • Susan Badalian Armenia - A road sign at the entrance to the border village of Yeraskh, July 20, 2021. (Photo by Armenia's Office of the Human Rights Defender) The mayor of an Armenian village bordering Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave was wounded on Monday night as a result of fresh shootouts between Armenian and Azerbaijani troops stationed at the border section. The Armenian Defense Ministry has accused Azerbaijani forces of repeatedly firing at its border posts outside the village of Yeraskh over the past week. An Armenian soldier was killed in one such skirmish reported on July 14. The ministry said that its troops deployed in the area about 70 kilometers south of Yerevan came under heavy gunfire on Monday evening. It said that the Azerbaijani side used mortars in the cross-border fighting that continued into the early hours of Tuesday. No exchanges of gunfire were reported from the Yeraskh area later in the morning and in the afternoon. According to a ministry spokesman, the head of the village administration, Radik Oghikian, was wounded while trying to extinguish a fire, apparently caused by gunshots, late in the evening. Oghikian was hospitalized and operated on in the following hours. “He took a water pump to help put out the fire and was hit by shrapnel,” a Yeraskh resident told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “His condition is good right now.” This and other villagers said they heard unusually loud gunshots overnight. They suggested that the Yeraskh border section saw the heaviest fighting in years. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry accused the Armenian side of violating the ceasefire and wounding an Azerbaijani army officer. Another Azerbaijani serviceman was reportedly wounded last week. Armenia - Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian visits the village of Kut in Gegharkunik province bordering Azerbaijan, May 27, 2021. The mayors of border villages located in two other Armenian provinces also reported cross-border firing on the night from Monday to Tuesday. Nerses Shadunts, the head of a community consisting of several villages in southeastern Syunik province, said that Azerbaijani troops “sporadically” fired automatic weapons in the air for about three hours. Sima Chitchian, who runs the border village of Kut in Gegharkunik province, heard similar gunfire which she said broke out late on Monday and lasted for more than three hours. “It was a sound of heavy weapons,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. Kut is located at one of the several sections of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border where Azerbaijani troops reportedly advanced a few kilometers into Armenian territory in May. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian accused Baku on Saturday of planning to provoke “new military clashes” along the frontier and in Nagorno-Karabakh. He pointed to the armed incidents at the Yeraskh-Nakhichevan section. On Monday morning, Azerbaijan’s Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov reportedly ordered Azerbaijani army units to thwart Armenian “provocations” on the border. Echoing a recent statement by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, he said they must be prepared for another war with Armenia. Armenian Opposition Bloc Avoids Boycott Of Parliament • Tatevik Lazarian Armenia - Former President Robert Kocharian and senior members of his Hayastan (Armenia) bloc hold an election campaign rally in Yerevan's Republic Square, June 18, 2021. A senior member of the main opposition Hayastan bloc confirmed on Tuesday that it will accept its seats in Armenia’s new parliament despite refusing to recognize official results of last month’s elections that gave victory to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s party. “Yes, we have decided to take our mandates,” Ishkhan Saghatelian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “We will make a statement to that effect shortly.” Hayastan and another major opposition bloc, Pativ Unem, faced calls for boycotting the National Assembly on a permanent basis following the June 20 parliamentary elections which they claim were marred by serious irregularities. Hayastan’s top leader, former President Robert Kocharian, indicated on June 22 that his bloc will likely take up the 29 seats which it won, according to the Central Election Commission (CEC), in the 107-member National Assembly. He said presence in the parliament will give Hayastan “additional and substantial levers” to challenge Pashinian’s government. Kocharian announced late on Monday that he himself will cede his seat to another Hayastan candidate. He argued, in particular, that he is a “man of the executive branch” and ran for the post of prime minister in the snap elections. Pativ Unem, which is led by another ex-president, Serzh Sarkisian, is also expected to take up its 7 seats in the parliament. The bloc’s spokesman, Sos Hakobian, said it will announce its decision by Wednesday evening. Pashinian’s Civil Contract party will control 71 parliament seats. No other political force will be represented in the National Assembly. Hayastan, Pativ Unem and two smaller opposition groups challenged the official vote results in the Constitutional Court later in June. The court rejected over the weekend their demands to annul those results. Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL Copyright (c) 2021 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc. 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.