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Armenian PM, Pashinyan, warns of coup attempt

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has warned of an attempted military coup against him.

Embattled Mr. Pashinyan went on Facebook on Thursday after the army leadership demanded he and his government resign.

The forty-five-year-old PM has faced protests and calls to step down after what critics said was the disastrous handling of a six-week conflict between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh last year.

Mr. Pashinyan, who has consistently dismissed calls to resign, urged his followers to rally in the centre of the capital, Yerevan, to support him.

During the Facebook livestream on Thursday, Mr. Pashinyan told the nation that he had dismissed the head of the general staff of the armed forces and said a replacement would be announced later.

He said the crisis would be overcome constitutionally.

“The most important problem now is to keep the power in the hands of the people, because I consider what is happening to be a military coup,” Mr. Pashinyan said.

It was not clear whether the army was willing to use force to back the statement in which it called for the prime minister to resign, or whether its call for him to go was just verbal.

Later in the day, the president of the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, Arayik Harutyunyan, offered to mediate between Mr. Pashinyan and the general staff.

Last year, ethnic Armenian forces surrendered swathes of territory in and around disputed Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan, following a conflict that killed thousands of people.

A Russian-brokered ceasefire signed by leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan last November halted military action in and around the enclave.

Nagorno-Karabakh, located in the South Caucasus, is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, but populated by ethnic Armenians. In the mid-1990’s, Armenia and Azerbaijan, both former Soviet republics, went to war over the enclave, resulting in defeat for the Azeris.

Last year’s victory, though a bitter pill for many Armenians to swallow, was certain to happen, given extensive military backing Azerbaijan received from Turkey and Israel as well as Russia’s reluctance to intervene on the side of Armenia.

Now, some 2,000 Russian troops are serving as peacekeepers in the region.

Russia also has a military base in Armenia.

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