Armenia’s top military brass has called for the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, asserting in a public statement that the military leadership has lost confidence in the current Government’s ability to serve the interests of the country. The fallout is directly related to a public spat over the efficacy of the use of Russian-provided Iskander missiles during the recent war, a subject that was broached by former-President Serzh Sargsyan and triggered a rebuke from Nikol Pashinyan. The subsequent response by Tiran Khachatryan, the Deputy Chief of Staff, in which the Prime Minister’s claims were contradicted resulted in the firing of Mr. Khachatryan. Perceiving this as a direct assault against the military brass, the Chief of Staff has demanded the PM’s resignation, along with a laundry list of complaints directed against the current Government.
Below is a chronology of the day’s events.
Statement of the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces
11:50 a.m.: The General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia expresses its resolute protest against the dismissal of the First Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Armenia for short-sighted reasons, which was carried out without taking into account the national interests of Armenia. In such difficult conditions for the country, such a decision is an anti-state, irresponsible step.
The Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia and the Government are no longer able to make adequate decisions in this critical situation for the Armenian people.
For a long time, the Armed Forces patiently tolerated the “attacks” aimed at discrediting the Armed Forces by the current government, but everything has its limits.
The Armed Forces has fulfilled its duty with honor, to fight with its people against the enemy.
The inadequate governance of the current authorities and serious mistakes in foreign policy have brought the country to the brink of collapse.
Due to the current situation, the Armed Forces demand the resignation of the Prime Minister and the Government, and warn them against using force against the people, whose children died defending the Homeland and Artsakh. The army has always been with the people, as the people have been with the army.
12:12 p.m.: In response to the statement by the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan wrote the following status on his Facebook Page:
“I consider the statement of the [military] General Staff a military coup attempt. I am inviting all our supporters to the Republic Square right now. I will soon address the public in a live broadcast.”
PM Nikol Pashinyan Calls on Supporters to Gather at Republic Square
12:28 p.m.: In a Facebook Live, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called on supporters to immediately gather at Republic Square in Yerevan.
Pashinyan said that he had called for the gathering to deliberate on the reasons behind such a call from the military. He said that the main issue before the Armenian people today is to maintain and safeguard the rule of the people and of civilians because what is happening is an attempt at a military coup.
Pashinyan said that he has taken responsibility for what happened [losing the war] and has tried to provide answers to all the questions. However, Pashinyan said we have reached a point when addressing questions to high ranking military officials becomes inevitable if we want to learn the whole truth about the war. According to Pashinyan, the fact that the government and civil society can ask questions regarding certain military and combat episodes of the war was not received well by some generals.
Pashinyan said, “We need to understand the possible connections between certain high ranking officials and certain political circles. Who were those that were urging the army to address the issue of the leadership during the war, as well as the coup attempt [storming of the Government Building and Parliament] following the November 9 trilateral agreement? It turned out that there are people who want to take revenge from high-ranking government officials so that the whole truth about the war is not revealed. I want to talk about these issues with you and I urge you to remain calm and not resort to extreme measures.”
He urged people in the military to continue defending the country and not lose vigilance, underscoring that it is impermissible for the army to be engaged in political processes and make political assessments.
After having sacked the First Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces yesterday, Pashinyan said he also signed the documents needed for the dismissal of the Chief of the General Staff Onik Gasparyan. He thanked everyone for their service and expressed hope that they will overcome this situation in accordance with the law. Pashinyan said that the position will be filled very soon. In the meantime, the PM said that the Defense Minister will maintain the normal functioning of the armed forces.
He ended with an exhortation: “I invite you all to Republic Square to discuss next steps and discuss some important questions. I urge you all to come to Republic Square.”
Artsakh President Says He’s Ready to Mediate
12:37 p.m.: Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan made an announcement regarding the situation in Armenia:
The recent internal political developments in the Republic of Armenia are extremely worrying, and I urge all parties to show self-restraint and common sense, otherwise our defeat will be much deeper and fatal. We have already shed enough blood; now is the time to put an end to the crisis and go through a long process of development and strengthening.
While in Yerevan at the moment, I am ready to mediate to overcome this political crisis with honor.
1:05 p.m.: PM Nikol Pashinyan announced that he will give a live address from Republic Square at 4 p.m. He urged people to gather at Republic Square and noted that the police and other law enforcement bodies will secure the safety of the gathering.
Statement by Prosperous Armenia Party
1:18 p.m.: The Political Council of the Prosperous Armenia Party issued the following statement:
Today, our country and statehood are facing a crucial watershed. The statement of the General Staff of the Republic of Armenia’s Armed Forces to stand by our people and statehood is a turning point. We call on Nikol Pashinyan to avoid taking the country toward civil war, to not allow bloodshed, to not turn one Armenian against the other because our real enemy is on the other side of the border. Nikol Pashinyan has one last chance to leave the political arena without creating reverberations, without endangering our already-shredded post-war statehood.
We will not allow Armenians to shed each other’s blood, we will not allow a man obsessed with prolonging his rule to lead our compatriots to clashes. We are losing our statehood.
We call on the National Security Service (NSS) of the Republic of Armenia, the police and all other security structures to not come out against their own people and to not become a tool to keep one person in power. The current situation must be resolved exclusively through political means. We stand by the people and will do everything to secure the peaceful transfer of power.
Human Rights Defender Issues Statement, Calls for Vigilance
1:24 p.m.: Armenia’s Human Rights Defender Arman Tatoyan’s announcement:
The situation in the country requires an exceptional effort from all of us to ensure solidarity and absolute respect for human rights.
Any developments leading to tensions should be ruled out.
The government and, first of all, law enforcement agencies are obliged to be guided exclusively by the rule of law and to strictly ensure the protection of human rights in the country.
More than ever, we need vigilance and solidarity in these responsible days.
Statement by the Homeland Salvation Movement
1:35 p.m.: The Homeland Salvation Movement issued the following statement:
The Homeland Salvation Movement welcomes the statement by the highest command of the Armenian Armed Forces and expresses solidarity with the only and selfless guarantor of our country, the Armed Forces.
We consider it unnecessary to give assessments regarding the destructive actions and consequences of the current authorities and the person holding the office of Prime Minister.
Pashinyan, fueling the fire, is trying to incite our people to civil strife and bloodshed.
We call on the citizens of the Republic of Armenia to not give in to the provocations of the current regime, to maintain restraint, cool heads and unite around the only guarantor of our country, the Armed Forces and the highest command staff of the Armenian Army.
We call on our people, citizens concerned with the homeland’s salvation, to gather at Freedom Square today at 3 p.m. to show solidarity with our Armed Forces, our Army and complete the work of removing Pashinyan’s government.
Statement of the Bright Armenia Party
1:46 p.m.: Announcement by the governing body of the Bright Armenia Party:
The political crisis in the country is deepening, and there is a need to immediately return the processes to the political arena, otherwise there is a great danger of clashes and a new “March 1.” We must never forget that lesson and shall not allow an Armenian to raise his hand against another Armenian again. The processes must remain within the framework of the constitution, and a transition of power must take place.
The resolution of the crisis without the resignation of the Prime Minister is no longer possible.
Statement of the Republican Party of Armenia
1:57 p.m.: Statement of the Executive Body of the Republican Party of Armenia:
The capitulant authorities, as part of their conspiratorial efforts to dismantle Armenia, are trying to call for civil clashes.
The gang that brought us all to the brink of national catastrophe is ready to take new insidious and treacherous steps to maintain its power.
The time has come for decisive steps for the future of Armenia and Artsakh.
– our members and supporters to gather at Freedom Square at 3 p.m.
– all patriotic citizens to show vigilance and political will and not give in to the provocations of the authorities.
– the leaders and employees of law enforcement agencies to not obey the illegal orders of the capitulator and stand by the people for the sake of the future of our state.
National Security Service Statement
2:17 p.m.: The Armenian Unified Infocenter published an announcement by the National Security Service of Armenia:
Given the current situation, the National Security Service urges everyone to refrain from actions that threaten national security and warns that any illegal action will receive an adequate response from the law enforcement bodies.
We call on our citizens not to engage in provocative actions, to maintain law, order and vigilance. The public administration bodies of the Republic of Armenia are carrying out their responsibilities.
The National Security Service warns that such possible actions could threaten the security of the Republic of Armenia, and any such step could be seen as a concrete act to weaken the country.
Within the scope of its responsibilities, the National Security Service will continue to take the necessary measures depending on the development of the situation, to protect the sovereignty and security of the Republic of Armenia, and its territorial integrity.
Former President Robert Kocharyan Issues Statement
2:36 p.m.: Announcement by former President Robert Kocharyan:
We call on you to stand by our state at this crucial moment and to stand by our Armed Forces, the Armenian Army. The government that lost the war and handed over land must leave. That is the first necessary guarantee of our national revival and that is the imperative of the day.
Office of the Second President of the Republic of Armenia Robert Kocharyan
Announcement by the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces
3:08 p.m.: The General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces issued another statement regarding their earlier announcement demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan:
The statement issued by the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces on the morning of February 25 was not directed by anyone or made under pressure from anyone.
This is the clear conviction and position of the generals and officers, which has only one aim – to serve the salvation of the homeland at this crucial moment.
We once again confirm our clear position.
President Armen Sarkissian Issues Statement
4 p.m.: President Armen Sarkissian’s statement:
Today, when we have not yet overcome the consequences of the war unleashed against Artsakh, when we have thousands dead and wounded, when there are serious regional threats, we sadly find ourselves in the middle of an extremely dangerous situation, which is fraught with unpredictable consequences for our state and can lead to irreversible losses.
There is a martial law in the country. The external danger is real: a ceasefire declaration is not a peace treaty. There are many challenges facing Armenia and Artsakh.
I call on everyone, state bodies, security apparatus, political powers, all citizens:
– show restraint and common sense. Every ill-considered word or action increases the tension and deepens the crisis.
– do not give in to provocations, refrain from calls for hatred and intolerance. Our people cannot afford to rip apart, any attempt to destabilize the state or endanger statehood must be rejected.
– act unconditionally within the framework of the Constitution.
Reaffirming the role of the institute of the President’s office as a balancing body, I am urgently taking steps to defuse tensions and find ways to resolve the situation peacefully.
Causing shocks in the country will be an insult to the memory of thousands of our children who died in the war.
I call on all of you to be vigilant, constrained and show restraint.
PM Nikol Pashinyan Addresses the Nation From Republic Square
4 p.m.: First of all, as the legitimately elected representative, as Prime Minister, my order to all the soldiers, officers and generals of Armenia’s Armed Forces… gentlemen, you will occupy yourself with your mission, to ensure the security of Armenia’s borders and territorial integrity. This is my order and no one shall dare to not follow it. Next, what has happened? Today, some have tried to engage our Armed Forces in anti-constitutional, anti-democratic processes. And I have clearly stated that the initiative of the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces is a military coup attempt and the people will not allow for a military coup to happen in Armenia. But I also want to say that our Army is the Army that we all love and adore, and I am sure that many generals and high ranking officers have signed under the announcement under the order of generals superior to them. My order to them is to deal with the security of Armenia’s borders and territorial integrity. You should do your job, the Army cannot get involved in a political process. The Army should only obey the people and the political leadership elected by the people. Those who work outside this logic, work against the people, the law and Armenia’s security. And I demand that even those high-ranking officers that have left their posts, return and ensure the security of the country. I also want to talk about what has happened after 2018 in the relationship between the government and armed forces. Our government did not spare any effort in supporting the armed forces. In 2019 alone, we increased the budget allocated to defense by 50 billion AMD. We increased the salaries of all the officers, contract soldiers and we did that to show that we value the service that our armed forces provide. But we should not hide that, unfortunately, the power that had enriched itself at the expense of the army has followers in the army, who should immediately leave. They are trying to blame me for treason but what are all of these people doing who have gathered at the square following the call of the “traitor”? They are trying to blame you for treason.
The leader of the 17 political parties said that, back in October, he urged the armed forces to take power into their hands. They have constantly called on the army to not fight against Turks but instead to fight against their own people. Those who have stolen the food of the soldier and accuse the one who increased salaries, gave food and clothes to the soldiers, of being a traitor. But this does not mean that I am putting my responsibility on the shoulders of others. For two years, they are accusing us of giving away territories. But only a few days ago, the “rejected one” said that he agreed to give up the seven territories. But if you have already made the arrangements and publicly say that you have agreed to those conditions and thought that this is a good solution, then why were you calling us traitors? You could have made public statements and said that we have left the negotiation process at this stage and that territories need to be handed over to Azerbaijan. We have said that we will protect our country, dignity and our homeland. And we have relied on our Army, and we believed in our Army and we believe in our Army today.
We are all in post-war stress, and the people are tired of continuous instability. Peoples’ power should not be put under doubt in the country. All of the attempts at civil war, illegalities, violence should all be halted by the National Security Service, Police and the people.
Do you think that I haven’t thought about resigning? I have thought about it at length, but I did not become prime minister through my own will. The people made that decision and the people will decide whether I resign or not.
We decided to suggest to the opposition to hold snap-parliamentary elections. We wanted the people to reaffirm its power and vote for the one they want. But all seventeen powers and parliamentary opposition rejected our offer, saying that people should not decide, and instead the seventeen parties and political elites will gather and decide who will be the PM. We have said that we will not allow for that to happen. Let the people demand my resignation, if they want to. Let the people condemn me. Let the people shoot me in Republic Square.
When we undertook the revolution in this square, we said that it should be a revolution of love and solidarity. We said that everyone should have a chance, we did not launch vendettas against anyone. But whoever could have stabbed us from the back – judges stabbed us, civil servants stabbed us. And during the war, they were dreaming of our defeat so that they could seize the government building. They were defeated in their minds, they were defeated on paper.
I had a phone conversation with the President today and told him that I think he should sign the documents dismissing the Chief and the Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces. If he does not sign, then does that mean that he is joining the coup attempt? This is a very simple choice. A second option is for Onik Gasparyan to resign, because he can’t bring the army against the people.
I call on all political parties to suspend all activities, all acts of civil disobedience. Come, let’s start the discussion. If you hold non-stop rallies, so will we. If you engage in disobedience, you will be arrested according to the law. We are saying, here, together, and it is our call that the issue of snap elections is off the table… either the President signs the decree to fire Onik Gasparyan or Onik resigns himself. I will start consultations with all political parties, even those who have been radically opposed to me. Our will, our unity, our determination, we will not concede our power. It is the end of the Velvet. What does it mean “an end to the Velvet”? This means the establishment of the law. The people know that the reason for this loss [in the war] is because of those people who, for years, stole from the army, from the people, from the country. Today, they also know that that is the main demand of the people. We will cut off our hand but we will not steal from the people. An end to the Velvet! We will continue this action. We will walk from Tigran Mets Blvd. and demonstrate our determination, to show that we stand with the army and the army stands with us. Second, the people know why we lost. The people have one expectation… and I’m sorry that I have not realized your expectations. Therefore, starting from today, an end to the Velvet! Those who stole from the country have no path back.
Armenia’s Ministry of Defense Issues Statement
5 p.m.: The Defense Ministry of Armenia issued a statement saying that the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia are fulfilling their responsibility of protecting the borders of the motherland and are ensuring Armenia’s security. “The army is an apolitical structure, and all attempts to involve the Armed Forces in any political process are inadmissible. Any such attempt threatens the stability and security of the Republic of Armenia. The Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Armenia will respond to any such action.”
Opposition Camps in Front of Parliament
6 p.m.: Supporters of the opposition Homeland Salvation Movement have set up tents on Baghramyan Ave., in front of the country’s parliament, vowing to stay until PM Nikol Pashinyan resigns.
Pashinyan Speaks With Russian President
6:30 p.m.: Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two leaders discussed the domestic political situation in Armenia. President Putin expressed his support for the Armenian authorities and expressed hope that the situation would be resolved.