President Serzh Sarkisian on Friday warned against attempts to forcibly depose his government and told Armenia’s most powerful security agency to step up its “fight against terrorism.”
“In Armenia, no issue will be solved through violence and weapons,” Sarkisian said in a speech delivered at the National Security Service (NSS).
“I want to advise those who will try to attain their personal or parochial interests with illegal methods to refrain from adventurism,” he said. “Our law-enforcers are prepared to counter … any manifestation jeopardizing constitutional order.”
He pointed to the NSS’s and other law-enforcement agencies’ response to the July 2016 seizure of a police station in Yerevan by armed members and supporters of a radical opposition group.
The gunmen demanded that Sarkisian free the jailed leader of their Founding Parliament movement, Zhirayr Sefilian, and step down. They surrendered to security forces after a two-week standoff which left three police officers dead.
Sarkisian stated the day after their surrender that any further attempts to effect political change in Armenia by violent means would also fail. “Yerevan is not Beirut or Aleppo. Let nobody try to import Cold War-era solutions from the Middle East to Armenia,” he said in a clear reference to Sefilian’s Lebanese background.
Addressing senior NSS officers on Friday, Sarkisian said Armenia may now face a greater risk of terrorist attacks due to its geography, a “special external environment” or even a growing number of foreign tourists visiting the country. “You must therefore be vigilant,” he said. “I think that your counterterrorism actions need to be further intensified.”
In that context, the president mentioned last week’s meeting of his National Security Council which focused on “the fight against terrorism.” The council approved a new plan of actions designed to prevent such violence in view of the “high degree of terror threats in the region” and the changing nature of contemporary terrorism. Sarkisian’s office gave no details of that plan.
The council meeting came the day after the NSS announced that law-enforcement authorities in Yerevan have issued an arrest warrant for a U.S. citizen of Armenian origin accused of calling for and plotting politically motivated violence in Armenia.
An NSS statement said that the suspect, identified as R.K, opened recently a fake Facebook account to promote a radical group campaigning for a violent overthrow of the Armenian government. It claimed that the group called Fighters for Justice (MHA) has also sought to recruit disgruntled Armenians willing to carry out violent attacks on government and law-enforcement officials.
The “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily revealed afterwards that the suspect facing arrest in Armenia is Robert Koorkian, a resident of California. Speaking to the paper, Koorkian did not deny opening the social media account but insisted that he never plotted any violence.
The Facebook page declared on December 6 that MHA has embarked on “the second phase of armed struggle” launched by the jailed gunmen currently standing trial.
The U.S. Embassy in Yerevan said on December 15 that it is cooperating with the Armenian authorities in their probe but did not elaborate.