Scores of police officers engaged in providing security for an embattled opposition leader and his property have been dismissed from work in recent days in what authorities claim is just an “ongoing reform”.
The press service of Armenia’s National Police has confirmed 200 such dismissals since last week when the government launched an offensive against Gagik Tsarukian and his Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK).
Talking to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun), however, police officials implied that the move is not related to the recent internal political developments.
“In all police departments, including the one providing state protection services, contracts concluded with physical and juridical persons are being constantly checked and updated,” a police statement said.
“All this is being done as part of the ongoing reforms in the police aimed at ensuring that state protection services are provided by more experienced personnel,” it added.
On February 12, President Serzh Sarkisian urged senior members of his ruling Republican Party (HHK) to oust the BHK leader from politics. In his speech at the HHK council meeting the head of state emphasized that “illiterate” and “ignorant” people like Tsarukian are “evil” for the country and should not be allowed to participate in the political process.
At the same time, Sarkisian effectively ordered tax audits of the businesses owned by Tsarukian’s extended family and recommended that the opposition figure, who hinted at his presidential ambitions last year, be dismissed from his state posts and be stripped of his parliamentary seat due to “chronic absenteeism”.
Earlier, Tsarukian effectively warned Sarkisian to give up his intention to reform the Constitution, which is seen by the BHK and other major opposition groups as the current administration’s attempt to perpetuate its power, or face street protests organized by the opposition.
In response to the government crackdown the BHK and its key allies, the Armenian National Congress and Heritage, said they will hold a joint rally in Yerevan on Friday as part of their campaign to oust the current administration.