Nikol Pashinian, an outspoken opposition lawmaker, claimed to have been physically assaulted by a pro-government colleague in the Armenian parliament on Thursday after publicly deriding his pro-Russian views.
Pashinian said that Artashes Geghamian attacked and punched him in a corridor of the parliament building in Yerevan. “I successfully defended myself,” he wrote on Facebook. “And I shined my shoes with him a couple of times.”
Geghamian, who represents the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), denied attacking Pashinian. “If I punch someone, rest assured that they will be taken to hospital because I had practiced boxing for three and a half years,” he told reporters.
Asked about red spots on Pashinian’s face, Geghamian said: “He probably blushed with shame seeing as he makes ludicrous statements.”
Earlier in the day, the two men bitterly argued during a parliament debate on Armenia’s military cooperation with Russia. Pashinian, 42, mockingly reminded Geghamian of his Communist past as he deplored the 67-year-old’s strong support for close ties with Moscow. “You had better speak of Marxism and Leninism,” he said.
“Watch your mouth,” shot back Geghamian.
Pashinian challenged the ruling HHK to react to “this hooligan act” when he addressed the National Assembly later in the day. He linked the alleged incident with a recent statement by the HHK’s parliamentary leader, Vahram Baghdasarian, seemingly threatening opposition figures with violence.
“This is a very serious issue, and we intend to pursue it till the end so that we can draw conclusions regarding the mode of our further work here,” added one of the leaders of the opposition Yelk alliance.
Geghamian is a former opposition leader who was one of the main candidates in Armenia’s 2003 presidential election. He subsequently pledged allegiance to President Serzh Sarkisian, whom he had for years harshly criticized. Geghamian was reelected to the parliament on the HHK ticket in April.