The three female parliamentarians burst into the office on Wednesday as Avanesian met there with other officials from the Armenian Ministry of Health. They brandished photographs of the remains of Armenian soldiers killed in the 2020 Karabakh war that were kept in degrading conditions at a morgue outside Yerevan.
“Shame on you!” one of the lawmakers, Kristine Vartanian, shouted during the incident caught on a mobile phone camera.
It was a stark reminder of Avanesian’s perceived role in a scandal that erupted one year ago. Photographs circulated on social media showed plastic bags filled with human remains lying on the ground in the morgue’s basement, which was not refrigerated to prevent their decomposition. They caused uproar in the country, with many accusing the authorities of dishonoring the soldiers.
Avanesian publicly apologized to soldiers’ families at the time amid opposition calls for her resignation. The minister retained her post, unlike the morgue’s director and two other employees fired as a result.
Avanesian condemned the intrusion as an act of “hooliganism” and “ugly show.” She called for a parliamentary ethics inquiry into Vartanian and the two other lawmakers.
Vartanian scoffed at the demand on Thursday, saying that it is part of the Armenian authorities’ efforts to intimidate leaders and participants of more than month-long protests organized by the country’s main opposition forces.
The incident occurred the day after Avanesian praised security forces’ response to the virtually daily rallies in Yerevan demanding Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s resignation. She specifically defended the use of force against opposition supporters who tried to march towards the parliament building on June 3.
The police fired stun grenades during the violent clashes with protesters which left dozens of people from both sides injured. Amateur videos posted on social media showed some police officers kicking and punching protesters arrested by their colleagues. None of those officers is facing criminal proceedings.
Law-enforcement authorities have instead pressed assault charges against 15 opposition supporters. Opposition leaders reject the accusations as politically motivated.
“I am sometimes surprised by the patience of our police officers, their strong nerves,” Avanesian told reporters on Tuesday. “They are doing a great job. I want to thank them.”