Nikol Pashinian, an Armenian opposition lawmaker, said on Thursday that a radical opposition group, whose members have seized a police station in Yerevan, told him to stay away from its supporters after he helped to stop their clashes with riot police.
Pashinian blamed a group of “drunk” and unruly protesters for the violence that broke out the previous night on a street leading to the police compound occupied by the armed members of the Founding Parliament movement.
“When people swearing in front of video cameras providing live [online] broadcasts popped up there last night it was obvious to me that this is being done to give the police a pretext to act,” said Pashinian.
“There were some suspicious individuals stirring up trouble in several locations,” he told a news conference. “So the question is whether or not Founding Parliament and [its hostage-taking group called] ‘Daredevils of Sasun’ condemns that.”
Pashinian, who leads a mainstream opposition party called Civil Contract, has tried to prevent more bloodshed since the Founding Parliament gunmen stormed the police station on Sunday, killing one policeman and taking four others hostage. He has repeatedly met with senior law-enforcement officials, the gunmen, and Zhirayr Sefilian, Founding Parliament’s jailed leader, in an effort to help defuse the crisis.
Armenia - Riot police clash with demonstrators who had gathered in a show of support for gunmen holding several hostages in a police station in Yerevan, Armenia, July 20, 2016
Pashinian rushed to Khorenatsi Street on Wednesday night after some 200 angry protesters attacked security forces in an attempt to approach the seized building. He pleaded with them to avoid further confrontation with the riot police. The fierce clashes, which left more than 50 people injured, did not resume after his appeal.
Pashinian said that shortly after he spoke by phone with a leader of the gunmen he was “politely” told by unnamed Founding Parliament members that he “should not give instructions to people there.”
“I have no ambition to lead or coordinate processes there,” said the outspoken politician.
“If people think that my presence hampers the successful implementation of their regime change plan, then from now on I will go to Khorenatsi Street only if demonstrators find it necessary or if I see that something needs to be done within the framework of our political platform,” he added in a clear jibe at Founding Parliament.
Pashinian, 41, is a former journalist and newspaper editor known for his harsh criticism of Armenia’s current and former governments. He was one of the main speakers at anti-government rallies organized by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian during the 2008 Armenian presidential race.
Pashinian spent about two years in prison on controversial charges stemming from a deadly suppression of Ter-Petrosian’s street protests held in the wake of the disputed 2008 presidential election.