Armenians protest after talks with Government collapse
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."
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.