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Opposition Leader Under Investigation


Armenia -- Vazgen Manukian (C) and other leaders of the opposition Homeland Salvation Movement talk during a rally at Liberty Square, Yerevan, February 20, 2021.

Police launched criminal proceedings against a veteran Armenian politician on Monday after he said that opposition forces trying to topple Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian must be ready to stage an uprising.

Vazgen Manukian made the statement in a speech delivered at a weekend rally held by the Homeland Salvation Movement, an alliance of more than a dozen opposition parties.

“At any moment -- it could be today, one week later or ten days later -- we must be ready for revolting and taking power at lightning speed,” said Manukian.

He described that as “Plan B” of the opposition campaign for Pashinian’s resignation involving peaceful protests. “We will follow Plan A but must always be ready for Plan B,” said the 75-year-old politician whom the opposition alliance wants to head an interim government to be formed after Pashinian’s resignation.

A spokeswoman for Prosecutor-General Artur Davtian said that the Armenian police launched a criminal investigation into public calls for a violent overthrow of the government. He told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that the criminal case has been sent to the Investigative Committee for further inquiry.

The law-enforcement authorities did not say whether Manukian will be summoned for questioning.

Manukian already floated the idea of an “uprising” when he met with opposition supporters late last month. His calls have not been officially endorsed by the Homeland Salvation Movement.

The alliance rallied thousands of supporters in Yerevan’s Liberty Square on Saturday in what its coordinator, Ishkhan Saghatelian, described as a “new start” of its drive to oust Pashinian. Saghatelian said the opposition forces will stage “nonstop” street protests in the coming days.

On Monday evening, a smaller crowd of opposition supporters marched to downtown Yerevan from the city’s northern Arabkir district. Opposition leaders addressed the protesters after blocking a key street intersection in the city center. They condemned the criminal case opened against Manukian.

“We want to save the Armenian nation and this state,” declared Manukian. He scoffed at the authorities’ reaction to his weekend statement, saying that “government buildings will fall into our hands like ripe pears.”

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