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Armenian PM Accused Of Shifting Coronavirus Blame


Armenia -- Deputies from the opposition Bright Armenia Party attend a parliament session, Yerevan, May 26, 2020.

The Armenian opposition accused Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on Wednesday of trying to shift the blame for his government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis to the public.

Leaders of the two opposition parties represented in the National Assembly pointed to Pashinian’s daily statements to the effect that the virus has been rapidly spreading in the country because Armenians do not follow safety rules set by the health authorities.

“I agree that each of us should bear individual responsibility … but to say that ‘each of you is responsible for yourself’ reminds me of the famous [and sarcastic Russian] saying: ‘Drowning people must rescue themselves,’” said Naira Zohrabian of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK). “No, it’s the government that’s responsible.”

“Frankly, I am seeing for the last two days a very dangerous and dishonest tendency to put the blame for this situation on citizens. Don’t you dare do such a thing,” Zohrabian warned the government.

Edmon Marukian, the leader of the Bright Armenia Party (LHK), said the government is also to blame for the fact that many people are still not taking the coronavirus epidemic seriously.

“Why are people incredulous?” Marukian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “Maybe because they heard what [Health Minister] Arsen Torosian said in March and still do not believe [in the epidemic.]”

“We were saying in March that this virus is very serious, that the constitutional referendum and the Karabakh elections should be postponed and that they should shut do this and that, whereas they were telling the people that the opposition is spreading panic,” he said.

“If we set a rule which is almost impossible to apply in practice we thereby forego responsibility,” said another senior LHK figure, Mane Tandilian. “I don’t want the government to be engaged in that now. It should receive counseling from countries that have successfully fought against the coronavirus.”

Other opposition parties have been even more critical of the government measures against the virus. They too accuse Pashinian of trying to dodge responsibility for the growing number of COVID-19 infections and deaths caused by them.

Pashinian denied this during his latest video address livestreamed on Wednesday. “It’s not about who is responsible,” he said. “I am responsible. But does it change anything? Does [the question of] who is responsible make things easier for dying people and their loved ones?”

Pashinian again called on Armenians to practice social distancing, wear face masks and frequently wash or disinfect their hands. He said this alone would stop the spread of the deadly virus.

The Armenian health authorities have registered more than 10,500 coronavirus cases and 170 deaths. They have also reported the deaths of 59 other people infected with COVID-19 which they say were primarily caused by other, pre-existing diseases.

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