Pashinian insisted that most Armenians continue to support him and his government despite Azerbaijan’s victory in the war stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire on November 10.
“In Armenia and outside it, there are people and groups who are trying to create a semblance of anarchy and spread chaos in our country,” he said in a televised address to the nation. “They want to bring the war into Armenia and, using assault rifles and criminal groups, leave the country in a state of freefall in order to ensure their return [to power] as saviors.
“I want to state clearly and unequivocally that we will not allow that to happen. Not because we are clinging to power but because the people do not want that.”
“Yes, the people have questions and are sometimes bitter and angry, sometimes disappointed and sometimes hopeless. But I see in all this the people’s trust [in the government] and want to thank the people for that trust,” added Pashinian.
The embattled premier thus pointed the finger at Armenia’s former leaders but did not name any of them. Nor did he specify “external forces known to you” who he suggested are helping the former regime topple him.
Pashinian’s latest speech came amid continuing calls for his resignation made not only by opposition forces but also President Armen Sarkissian, some public figures and media commentators. They blame him for significant territorial gains made by Azerbaijan during the six-week war.
The opposition criticism intensified on Thursday amid media reports that Azerbaijani soldiers entered a large gold mine on Armenia’s border with the Kelbajar district west of Karabakh which was handed back to Azerbaijan on Wednesday in line with the truce agreement. Some opposition figures accused Pashinian of ceding Armenian territory to Baku.
A deputy chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff, General Tiran Khachatrian, denied those claims at a late-night news conference in Yerevan. But he said at the same time that the Armenian military agreed to pull out of a checkpoint set up near the Sotk mine after “lengthy negotiations” with Azerbaijani and Russian military officials.
More importantly, Khachatrian acknowledged that half of the gold mine, the largest in Armenia, is technically located on the Azerbaijani side of the internationally recognized border and will no longer be under Armenian control. He said the talks followed a brief standoff between Armenian and Azerbaijani servicemen deployed in the mountainous area.
Pashinian too insisted that the border cuts across the mine operated by a Russian company. He accused the opposition of spreading “disinformation” about the loss of territory in Armenia proper.
Pashinian also faced late on Thursday more protests by parents and other relatives of Armenian soldiers who went missing during the war. They rallied outside the prime minister’s office before being received by Pashinian after midnight.
Pashinian’s press secretary, Mane Gevorgian, said afterwards that the premier “heard their demands” and briefed them on the Armenian side’s efforts to find the missing soldiers or recover their bodies believed to be lying on Azerbaijani-controlled territory.
Pashinian wrote on Facebook at around the same time that he has twice spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone over the past hour to discuss a wide range of issues relating to the implementation of the truce accord. He said they included the mutual search for and handover of dead soldiers’ bodies as well as the exchange of prisoners of war.