RFE/RL Armenian Service – 11/01/2023

                                        Wednesday, November 1, 2023

More Armenians Jailed After Anti-Government Protests

        • Naira Bulghadarian

Armenia - Riot police arrest an anti-government protester in Yerevan, September 
22, 2023.

Four more participants of recent anti-government protests in Yerevan, including 
a 16-year-old boy, have been arrested on what their lawyers and the Armenian 
opposition call politically motivated charges.

The largely peaceful protests erupted spontaneously shortly after the 
Azerbaijani army went on the offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh on September 19, 
paving the way for the restoration of Baku’s full control over the 
Armenian-populated territory. They demanded that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian 
resign because of his failure to prevent the fall of Karabakh. Some 
demonstrators clashed with security forces outside the main government building 
in Yerevan.

Opposition groups swiftly took over and stepped up the daily protests in the 
following days in an attempt to topple Pashinian. Their “civil disobedience” 
campaign fizzled out later in September.

Riot police detained hundreds of people during the demonstrations. The majority 
of them were set free after spending several hours in police custody.

At least 48 protesters, many of them university students, were charged with 
participating in “mass disturbances.” As of mid-October, 31 of them remained 
under arrest pending investigation.

Armenia -- Armenians take part in an anti-government protest in central Yerevan 
on September 24, 2023.

The fresh arrests were made over the weekend. All four men are natives of 
Nagorno-Karabakh facing the same charges. They include the 16-year-old Samvel 
Mirzoyan, who is suffering, according to his lawyer, from a heart problem.

The lawyer, Abgar Poghosian, said on Wednesday, said a Yerevan court cited 
witness tampering concerns when it remanded Mirzoyan in pre-trial custody. 
Poghosian laughed off that explanation, saying that police officers are the only 
witnesses in the case and that his teenage client could simply not influence 
their testimony.

“There is no doubt that this is a politically motivated case,” Poghosian told 
RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

“They want to arrest as many people as possible and thus create an atmosphere of 
fear,” he said, echoing the Armenian opposition’s assessments of the arrests.

Opposition leaders have described the arrested protesters as political prisoners 
and demanded their immediate release. Two of them visited the latest detainees 
in custody.

Armenia -- A protester waves the Karabakh flag as riot police officers guard the 
Armenian government building in Yerevan, September 2, 2023.

Some human rights activists have also expressed concern over the mass arrests. 
One of them, Zaruhi Hovannisian, believes that the Armenian authorities’ 
reluctance to place the indicted protesters under house arrest testifies to the 
political character of these cases.

The Investigative Committee, which is in charge of the cases, denies any 
political motives behind them, saying that the detainees assaulted police 
officers and threw rocks and other objects at the government building.

Among the detainees is Tatev Virabian, a Karabakh-born mother of two who is 
prosecuted for not only allegedly hurling a bottle of water but also her 
Facebook post construed by the law-enforcement agency as a call for violent 
regime change. She strongly denies the accusations.

Virabian’s lawyer, Arsen Babayan, expressed concern about the young woman’s 
health, saying that she recently fainted in her prison cell.

Russia ‘Rotating Troops’ In Depopulated Karabakh

Nagorno-Karabakh - Russian peacekeepers stand next to an armored vehicle at the 
checkpoint outside Stepanakert, October 7, 2023.

The Russian military has said that it has rotated its peacekeeping forces in 
Nagorno-Karabakh and sent their weaponry to Russia “for planned repairs” after 
the mass exodus of the region’s ethnic Armenian population.

Karabakh’s depopulation resulting from Azerbaijan’s September 19-20 military 
offensive called into question the continued presence of 2,000 or so Russian 
peacekeepers deployed there following the 2020 Armenian-Azerbaijani war. Over 
the past month they have dismantled most of their observation posts along the 
Karabakh “line of contact” that existed until the assault.

“The rotation of the peacekeeping contingent’s personnel as well as the sending 
of weapons and military equipment to the Russian Federation for planned repairs 
is being completed,” read a statement released by Russia’s Defense Ministry late 
on Tuesday.

It said the contingent keeps cooperating with Baku on “preventing bloodshed, 
ensuring security and observing humanitarian law in relation to the civilian 
population.” Only several dozen ethnic Armenians are thought to remain in 

A senior Russian diplomat said on October 9 that despite the exodus, condemned 
by Armenia as “ethnic cleansing,” the peacekeepers should remain in the region 
because their mission “will also be necessary in the future.” Russian President 
Vladimir Putin and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev discussed the issue 
when they met in Kyrgyzstan four days later. They announced no agreements on the 
future of the Russian presence in Karabakh.

Armenian leaders have denounced the Russians for their failure to prevent, stop 
or even condemn the Azerbaijani military operation. Prime Minister Nikol 
Pashinian insisted last week that they were “unable or unwilling to ensure the 
security of the Karabakh Armenians.”

Moscow has rejected the criticism. It has also bristled at European Union leader 
Charles Michel’s recent assertion that “Russia has betrayed the Armenian 
population” of Karabakh.

More Karabakh Captives Identified

        • Ruzanna Stepanian

Nagorno-Karabakh - A view through a car window shows abandoned vehicles in 
Stepanakert an Azeri military operation and mass exodus of ethnic Armenians from 
the region, October 2, 2023.

Azerbaijan detained not only eight current and former leaders of 
Nagorno-Karabakh but also at least as many other Karabakh Armenians following 
its September 19-20 military offensive, a senior Armenian law-enforcement 
official said on Wednesday.

“There are also captives who are not high-ranking officials. The capture of 
those individuals has been confirmed,” Argishti Kyaramian, the head of Armenia’s 
Investigative Committee, told reporters.

Kyaramian did not identify any of those captives. RFE/RL’s Armenian Service 
found out about one of them, Melikset Pashayan, last week.

Pashayan lived in the Karabakh village of Sznek. According to his relatives, he 
went missing while trying to help evacuate elderly and sick people unable to 
flee the village on their own. Pashayan’s wife said he subsequently phoned her 
from Baku and said he is in Azerbaijani custody.

Karabakh’s three former presidents -- Arayik Harutiunian, Bako Sahakian and 
Arkadi Ghukasian -- as well as current parliament speaker Davit Ishkhanian were 
taken to Baku to face grave criminal charges in late September. Their detentions 
followed the mass exodus of Karabakh’s residents that left the enclave almost 
fully depopulated.

Karabakh’s former premier Ruben Vardanyan, former Foreign Minister Davit 
Babayan, former army commander Levon Mnatsakanian and his ex-deputy Davit 
Manukian were arrested by Azerbaijani security forces last week while trying to 
enter Armenia through the Lachin corridor.

The Armenian government strongly condemned the arrests and urged the 
international community to help it secure the release of the Karabakh leaders. 
The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry rejected the criticism, saying that they will 
go on trial for promoting separatism, organizing “terrorist acts” and 
participating in “aggression against Azerbaijan.”

Baku has so far acknowledged only nine Karabakh detainees. Kyaramian insisted 
that their confirmed number stands at 16.

The figure does not include 30 Karabakh soldiers and 12 civilians who 
Kyaramian’s law-enforcement agency says went missing during the Azerbaijani 
assault and remain unaccounted for.

Yerevan Says Keen To Allay Russian Concerns Over International Court Treaty

        • Siranuysh Gevorgian

Armenia - The building of the Armenian Foreign Ministry in Yerevan.

Armenia has again offered to sign an agreement with Russia to address Moscow’s 
concerns about Yerevan’s recent acceptance of jurisdiction of an international 
court that issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin in 

Despite stern warnings from the Russian leadership, the Armenian parliament 
ratified on October 3 the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court 
(ICC) known as the Rome Statute. The move initiated by Prime Minister Nikol 
Pashinian and condemned by Moscow added to unprecedented tensions between the 
two states.

Russian officials said it will cause serious damage to Russian-Armenian 
relations. They dismissed Yerevan’s assurances that the ratification does not 
commit it to arresting Putin and handing him over to the ICC in the event of his 
visit to Armenia.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin said on October 9 that Moscow 
presented the Armenian government with “certain proposals” on the issue. He 
suggested that Yerevan is “either still thinking about them or has decided to 
reject them.”

In a statement to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service, the Armenian Foreign Ministry said 
on Wednesday that Yerevan has responded to those proposals. But it did not 
disclose them.

“In the context of proposals conveyed by the Russian side regarding the process 
of ratification of the Rome Statute by Armenia, the Armenian side came up with a 
proposal to conclude a corresponding bilateral agreement which can dispel the 
concerns of the Russian Federation,” the ministry said, adding that it has not 
received an “official written response” from Moscow.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed on October 3 the proposed bilateral 
treaty related to the ICC. He said it is not clear how Yerevan can “put in place 
special conditions, exceptions.”

For his part, Putin said on October 13 that the ratification of the ICC treaty 
will not stop him from visiting Armenia again in the future and that he and 
Pashinian “remain in touch.” The tensions between the two longtime allies have 
not eased since then.

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