The government said on Tuesday that it will invite the three former presidents of Armenia to attend this week’s official celebrations of the country’s Independence Day.
The September 21 events will mark the 27th anniversary of a referendum in which the vast majority of Armenians voted for secession from the disintegrating Soviet Union. They include an official reception that will be held at the former presidential palace in Yerevan where Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and most of his staff currently work.
“All three presidents will be invited to the Independence Day events,” said Eduard Aghajanian, the chief of Pashinian’s staff.
Pashinian swept to power in May after weeks of nationwide mass protests that forced Armenia’s longtime leader, Serzh Sarkisian, to resign. Sarkisian served as president of the republic for the past ten years. He tried unsuccessfully to extend his rule by becoming prime minister following the country’s transition to a parliamentary system of government.
Sarkisian’s predecessor, Robert Kocharian, was controversially arrested in July on coup charges stemming from a 2008 post-election crackdown on opposition protesters in Yerevan. An Armenian appeals court freed him from custody more than two weeks later.
Kocharian denies the charges as politically motivated. Immediately after his release he announced his return to active politics.
Pashinian has repeatedly defended Kocharian’s prosecution, while denying issuing any pressure on law-enforcement bodies investigating the 2008 violence. In a September 11 speech, he branded the ex-president a “criminal” and “traitor.”
The 43-year-old premier has also had an uneasy relationship with Armenia’s first president, Levon Ter-Petrosian. He played a prominent role in Ter-Petrosian’s opposition movement that was targeted by Kocharian in 2008. Pashinian subsequently spent about two years in prison on charges stemming from that crackdown.
Pashinian fell out with Ter-Petrosian after being released from prison in 2011. The two men met in July for the first time in years.