Opposition leader Nikol Pashinian and thousands of his supporters again marched unimpeded to Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s office in Yerevan late on Wednesday in continuing protest against his decade-long rule.
As was the case earlier in the day, riot police did not stop them from approaching the compound where Sarkisian worked in his previous capacity as president of the republic. Hundreds of baton-wielding officers led by the commander of Armenian interior troops were deployed in and around it.
Pashinian told the protesters to applaud the security forces when they reached a section of Marshal Bagramian Avenue facing the former presidential palace. “We wish the policemen good night and good service,” he said.
The crowd walked back to downtown Yerevan several minutes later.
Another section of Bagramian Avenue was the scene of a violent clash on Monday between Pashinian-led protesters and riot police which left 46 people, including Pashinian, injured.
The 42-year-old leader of the opposition Civil Contract party led the crowd to the prime minister’s office after holding another rally in the city’s main Republic Square. He seemed to have attracted fewer people than the previous night.
In a long speech, Pashinian pledged to continue his anti-government “velvet resolution” aimed at unseating Sarkisian. “This process must gain new momentum every day, and Serzh Sarkisian must feel isolated in his newly privatized mansion,” he said.
Pashinian urged supporters to gather in the vast square and block entrances to government buildings the following morning in order to prevent their employees from going to work. He declined to specify which buildings he is planning to block, noting only that Sarkisian will be holding his first cabinet meeting on Thursday. “We have prepared a surprise for Serzh Sarkisian,” he said without elaborating.
Pashinian also defended his decision to encourage not only university students but also underage Armenians to participate in his daily protests. What is more, he urged high school students across the country to boycott classes.
According to the police, 20 of 87 protesters detained and held in custody for several hours on Wednesday were minors. The Armenian Ministry of Education issued a statement urging the protest organizers to discourage schoolchildren from taking to the streets.
Sarkisian downplayed the scale of the unrest when he was elected prime minister by the parliament on Tuesday. But he sounded more concerned in an interview with the Shant TV channel partly aired on Wednesday. He said continued street protests in the capital would scare away foreign tourists and investors from Armenia.