Putin May Have Triggered an Attempted Coup in Armenia After PM Insulted His Missiles
Ozan Kose / Getty
MOSCOW - Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced that the military attempted a coup on Thursday. This is the latest development in a country still recovering from the lost war with Azerbaijan last year.
Now politicians and political analysts are speaking of Russia's hand in the attempted coup and referring to the tense relationship between President Vladimir Putin and Pashinyan. On Tuesday, Pushinyan insulted Moscow by complaining about Russian missiles, an indirect criticism of the Kremlin's strategy of waiting for Armenia to be weakened in the conflict despite its official status as a military ally.
"They didn't explode, or maybe 10 percent of them exploded," Pashinyan said Tuesday of the missiles. The military generals - already angry at Pashinyan's dismissal of military generals to modernize the armed forces - objected and sparked the conflict.
According to political analyst Artur Paronyan, Russian chief of staff Valery Gerasimov called his Armenian counterpart, General Onik Gasparyan, earlier in the day. "Moscow has given General Gasparyan a clear signal to get rid of our prime minister," Paronyan told The Daily Beast.
Under General Gasparyan's leadership, dozens of generals signed a statement demanding the removal of Pashinyan for his alleged inability to "make appropriate decisions in this crisis." It was the first direct military intervention in Armenian domestic politics since 2008, when 10 protesters were killed after the military crushed a protest in Yerevan Freedom Square.
Armenia healed from this tragedy and has since changed course. Over the past decade, the country has developed a vibrant civil society that is facing some of its most acute social problems. But the danger of a war with Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave has been in the air for decades. Generations grew up preparing for the next war, and in September the fighting began. It took six weeks and Armenia was turned upside down.
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After the war, thousands of bitter protesters crowded Yerevan, blaming the government for defeat and demanding Pashinyan's resignation. A Russian-brokered ceasefire saved Armenia from defeat in Nagorno-Karabakh, but also left Armenia desperately dependent on Russia for security reasons.
The opposition called for Pashinyan's overthrow and was supported by the army on Wednesday. Many men in crowds of protesters wore military uniforms and said they would not leave Freedom Square until Pashinyan disappeared. On Thursday General Gasparyan released his statement officially calling for the Prime Minister's resignation and criticizing him for "discrediting" the military.
In an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, Pashinyan's main rival, former Defense Minister Vazgen Manukyan, claimed he had strong support from the Russian military. "We blame Pashinyan for the utter diplomatic failure of the peace negotiations with Baku and for our defeat in the war against Azerbaijan's aggression." He added that he "was in contact with all commanders" and that he knows that "some operations [headed by Pashinyan] were more than in doubt".
“Everything that my army could win from 1992 to 1993, he lost. We plan to bring Pashinyan to justice and investigate why we lost territories and 5,000 lives, ”he said. Manukyan also stressed his support for peaceful demonstrations only, as civil war would destroy an already vulnerable Armenia.
Many of Manukyan's supporters openly advocate Russia's support for the coup. “The war showed us that neither the US nor France were here to save us. Moscow negotiated peace for us. Even now, Russian peacekeepers are on their guard in the conflict zone, ”Stepan Danielyan, a pro-Manukyan analyst, told The Daily Beast.
Armenian leaders have had a hard time winning the trust of a disaffected public. For years after the Freedom Square massacre, the public demanded justice, accusing then-President Robert Kocharyan of ordering the shootings. A velvety revolution brought Nikol Pashinyan, once a political prisoner, to power in 2018. That same year, a court ordered former President Kocharyan to be arrested for the shooting incident.
"Putin sees Pashinyan as a traitor and an enemy who has failed to keep his promises many times," Sergei Markov, a Kremlin analyst, told The Daily Beast.
Markov explained how the Putin-Pashinyan conflict extends beyond the rocket attacks. According to media reports, Putin had unsuccessfully campaigned for the release of his friend, former President Kocharyan, after his arrest in 2019.
"Putin called Kocharyan a few months ago on his birthday to demonstrate what he thought of the arrest," says Markov. "Now the Kremlin wants [Pashinyan] to drink the whole glass of shame so everyone can see what happens to an American puppet."
Read more at The Daily Beast.
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