Hrant Bagratian, an opposition lawmaker who served as Armenia’s prime minister from 1993-1996, came to blows with a protester in a bitter argument that happened outside the parliament building in Yerevan on Monday.
The protester, a middle-aged man, was among several dozen people who rallied outside the National Assembly to condemn a Russian-Armenian agreement on the creation of a new joint system of air defense. The small crowded demanded that the Armenian parliament do not ratify the treaty, saying that it would limit Armenia’s sovereignty and endanger its national security.
Bagratian is among a small minority of lawmakers also opposed to the treaty. He spoke to the protesters ahead of a parliamentary debate on its ratification.
The ex-premier known for his abrasive manners clashed with the angry man after being accused of mismanaging the country while in office. “Go away!” he shot back. “You are saying this to a man who created our air-defense system.”
“You all must go: you, Levon [Ter-Petrosian,] Serzh [Sarkisian,] [Robert] Kocharian. Your time is up. Retire!” the protester insisted, referring to Armenia’s current and former presidents.
The row turned violent when the protester called Bagratian a “swindler.” “Your grandma is a swindler,” Bagratian yelled back before being shoved and hit in the left shoulder.
The lawmaker attempted to fight back but was held back by another protester and several police officers. The latter detained the violent protester on the spot.
The Armenian police said later in the day that the case is being dealt with by another law-enforcement body, the Investigative Committee. It was not clear whether the committee will press criminal charges against the detainee.
Bagratian became prime minister in 1993 at a time when the Armenian economy was shrinking rapidly in the wake of the break-up of the Soviet Union and amid a war in Nagorno-Karabakh and broader turmoil in the region.
The economy began slowly growing after a Russian-brokered truce stopped the war in May 1994. Bagratian attributed the recovery to free-marketed reforms implemented by his government.