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Armenian opposition supporters rally in Yerevan Armenian opposition supporters rally in Yerevan  (AFP or licensors)

Armenians protest after talks with Government collapse

Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of the Armenian capital after talks between the opposition and the acting prime minister were called off amid a deepening political crisis in the impoverished former Soviet nation. Wednesday's rally underscores new uncertainty over the country's political future after longtime leader Serzh Sargsyan stepped down earlier this week.

By Stefan J. Bos

Thousands of protesters marched through the center of Armenia's capital, Yerevan, blocking traffic and chanting "Join us!".

They support protest leader Nikol Pashinian. He had been expected to sit down for talks with acting Prime Minister Karen Karapetian to discuss the political transition.

Their meeting was scheduled after Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan abruptly stepped down on Monday amid massive anti-government rallies. But the acting prime minister is an ally of Sargsyan, who ruled Armenia for ten years.

The opposition insists that the acting prime minister also steps down. Protesters want a new prime minister appointed by a new parliament. The talks on Wednesday were supposed to discuss that transition.

But acting Prime Minister Karapetian said in a statement Wednesday that the talks with protest leader Pashinian on hold because his supporters made unspecified "unilateral demands."

New protests

That prompted Pashinian to call for new rallies.

His supporters arrived here despite a heavy police presence. Earlier scuffles broke out between demonstrators and security forces.

Elsewhere convoys of police vehicles led by Interior Ministry armored personnel carriers pulled trailers of razor wire to different points in the city center.

The demonstrations have added to more uncertainty over the political future of this impoverished Caucasus mountains nation of three million people.

On Tuesday, the opposition and government briefly put their differences aside to remember the 1.5 million mainly Christian

Armenians who were massacred by Ottoman Turkish forces. Pope Francis, who visited the country in 2016, has called it a "genocide" and prayed that such a tragedy would never happen again.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report
25 April 2018, 17:07