Pashinian, other senior officials and members of his political team visited the Yerablur Military Pantheon in Yerevan as part of official ceremonies to mark the 31st anniversary of the country’s declaration of independence from the Soviet Union.
The several dozen parents of fallen soldiers gathered at the main entrance to Yerablur overnight to try to disrupt the wreath-laying ceremony. They blame Pashinian for the deaths of their sons as well as at least 3,800 other Armenian soldiers killed in action. Many of those soldiers were buried at Yerablur.
Riot police dispersed the protesters shortly before the officials led Pashinian arrived at the pantheon. The grief-stricken men and women mostly wearing black clothes were dragged away, forced into police vehicles and driven away. They all were set free after the ceremony.
“You all saw how savagely they attacked us,” said one of the protesting mothers. “They didn’t just drag us. They also hit us.”
Videos of the incident caused uproar on social media. The Armenian police issued a statement defending their actions and saying that they must not be “used for political purposes.” The statement said at the same time that the national police chief, Vahe Ghazarian, has ordered an internal inquiry into the use of force.
Vahan Hovannisian, a lawyer representing the parents, condemned “the illegal actions of police officers.” An Armenian civic group, the Union of Informed Citizens, likewise accused the police of using excessive force.
The same group of parents has protested regularly in Yerevan since April. The protests were sparked by Pashinian’s remarks made in response to continuing opposition criticism of his handling of the devastating war.
“They [critics] say now, ‘Could they have averted the war?’” Pashinian told the Armenian parliament on April 13. “They could have averted the war, as a result of which we would have had the same situation, but of course without the casualties.”
The protesting families say Pashinian thus publicly admitted sacrificing thousands of lives. They submitted a relevant “crime report” to Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General on April 18.
The office instructed other law-enforcement agencies to question Pashinian and decide whether to launch criminal proceedings against the prime minister. The latter has still not been summoned by them for questioning.