Armenians on December 19 began three days of mourning for those who died in six weeks of fierce fighting against Azerbaijani forces in and around Azerbaijan’s breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Masked against the coronavirus and surrounded by security, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian joined a crowd of thousands in downtown Yerevan shortly after 1 p.m. local time for a procession to honor the dead in the September-November escalation.
Pashinian said the march would follow a route, familiar to many Armenians who have grown up in the shadow of a “frozen conflict,” from Republic Square to the Erablur Military Pantheon.
Occasional bursts of “Nikol! Nikol!” broke out, but a somber mood was mostly observed as the prime minister’s black-suited contingent took up a place at the head of the crowd.
A live feed of the event appeared to show many thousands of marchers.
Pashinian has been under political fire since agreeing to a Moscow-brokered deal with Azerbaijan that took effect on November 10, ending the fighting.
The opposition held a similar, torch-lit procession the previous evening that also attracted many people.
His opponents want him to quit over what they say was his disastrous handling of the conflict, which handed Azerbaijan swaths of territory ethnic that Armenians had controlled since the 1990s.
Some mothers of soldiers who were killed said in a statement quoted by Interfax that they will not allow Pashinian onto the grounds of the pantheon.
In addition, the opposition plans a rally beginning at 3 p.m. on December 19 to renew calls for Pashinian’s resignation. They also plan another rally on December 22 and are urging Armenians to stage a national strike the same day, Interfax reported.
With reporting by Interfax
This post was originally published on Radio Free.