The country’s leading opposition groups launched the “civil disobedience” campaign after rallying thousands of supporters in a key square in the city center and setting up a protest camp there on Sunday. They pledged to bring other parts of Yerevan to a standstill.
Groups of activists mostly led by opposition lawmakers began blocking three dozen busy streets and street intersections in the Armenian capital early in the morning. Riot police reinforced by special police units used force to unblock them.
A statement released by the national police said traffic through those streets was fully restored by noon. The police reported later in the afternoon that 244 protesters were detained in scuffles with security forces.
Opposition leaders condemned the use of force and said the arrests will not deter them from continuing their push for regime change.
“We have many cases of violence, including against parliament deputies,” one of them, Ishkhan Saghatelian, told reporter. “But you know, all this is secondary. Everything is alright. People have risen up and the objectives set up by us are being methodically achieved.”
Security forces did not attempt to disperse protesters camped out at the intersection of four central avenues forming Yerevan’s France Square. The opposition Hayastan and Pativ Unem alliances were due to hold another rally there on Monday evening.
The opposition campaign was sparked by Pashinian’s recent statements on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Addressing parliament on April 13, the prime minister said the international community is pressing Armenia to scale back its demands on Karabakh’s status and recognize Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. He signaled Yerevan’s intention to make such concessions to Baku.
Opposition leaders and other government critics say Pashinian is intent on helping Baku regain control of Karabakh.
Pashinian’s political allies say that he did not call for the restoration of Azerbaijani control of Karabakh. They have accused the opposition of exploiting the issue in a bid to seize power.
Vahagn Aleksanian, a pro-government lawmaker, said on Monday that the opposition forces are now trying unsuccessfully to replicate mass protests that brought Pashinian to power in 2018. He expressed confidence that they will fail to topple the current government.