Bucking calls for his resignation, Prime Minister Pashinyan announces dismissal of chief of General Staff.
The Armenian military on Thursday called for the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, according to local media.
Onik Gasparyan, the chief of General Staff of the Armenian army, along with other senior commanders released a statement calling for Pashinyan to step down.
But Pashinyan blasted the military’s call as a coup attempt, and urged his supporters to take to the streets to resist.
He later announced the dismissal of the chief of General Staff on Facebook.
“Today I made a decision to fire the chief of the General Staff and his first deputy,” Pashinyan said, according to the Russian TASS news agency.
“The defense minister is already preparing a corresponding decision on appointing a new chief of General Staff and his deputies,” he added.
Pashinyan also called on his supporters to gather in Republic Square in the capital Yerevan.
“I consider the General Staff’s statement a military coup attempt. I invite all our supporters to Republic Square right now. I will address the public on the air in the near future,” he wrote, as quoted by TASS.
Later in the day, Pashinyan met with supporters gathered near a government building and marched with them.
In a speech to his supporters, Pashinyan criticized the military, saying that the army depends on the people and the prime minister.
He described the army’s statement as “an emotional reaction.” He also called the army personnel that he dismissed “brothers” and said he and his family have no plans to leave the country.
He then continued marching in downtown Yerevan, using a megaphone to thank his supporters.
The unrest follows the end of a military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan last fall widely seen as a victory for the latter
Relations between the former Soviet republics have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Upper Karabakh, a territory recognized as part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions.
During the six week-conflict, which ended with a Russian-brokered truce, Azerbaijan liberated several strategic cities and nearly 300 of its settlements and villages from Armenian occupation.
Before this, about 20% of Azerbaijan’s territory had been under illegal Armenian occupation for nearly three decades.