Pashinyan Attacks Artsakh Government in Exile

Pashinyan Attacks Artsakh Government in Exile

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan launched a scathing attack on Thursday against the leadership of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), accusing them of persisting as a self-proclaimed government in exile and issuing thinly veiled threats against them.

During the weekly cabinet session, Pashinyan hammered home the point three times that “there can be no government in Armenia other than the official government,” emphasizing the perceived gravity of the situation by claiming that any such pretense poses a dire national security threat. He went further, insinuating that any failure to address this issue adequately would reflect poorly on the competence of Armenia’s security apparatus.

The prime minister’s diatribe was primarily directed at Samvel Shahramanian, the president of the Artsakh, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR). Shahramanian had boldly asserted in an interview with France’s Le Figaro the day before that all governmental functions of the NKR remained operational even after the exodus from Artsakh following the Azerbaijani military offensive in September.

Shahramanian’s assertion that the NKR’s governmental infrastructure persisted, including its presidency, legislative, and judicial offices, was met with disdain by Pashinyan. Additionally, the prime minister dismissed Shahramanian’s decree issued on September 28, which dissolved the NKR, as irrelevant. Despite Shahramanian’s attempt to justify the decree as a measure to facilitate the safe evacuation of Karabakh Armenians to Armenia, Pashinyan’s allies had previously lambasted Shahramanian for his actions, accusing him of recklessly endangering Armenia’s national security.

Reports have circulated that Pashinyan has snubbed meetings with Shahramanian and other Karabakh leaders since they sought refuge in Armenia. Critics allege that Pashinyan’s reluctance to engage with Artsakh’s leadership reflects his administration’s refusal to address ongoing issues, fearing backlash from Azerbaijan.

Ishkhan Saghatelyan, a prominent figure in Armenia’s leading opposition alliance, denounced Pashinyan for his confrontational stance towards the Artsakh leadership. Saghatelyan warned of potential reprisals and called on Armenians to resist what he described as a “new wave of repression” that could target dissenters.

In a further display of authoritarian overtones, Pashinyan reiterated on Thursday that Armenian security services should be prepared to take coercive measures to prevent “certain circles forcibly displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh” from being exploited by undisclosed “external forces.” However, he offered no transparency or clarification on the nature of these forces or the extent of their influence.

Earlier in the week, Shahramanian, known for maintaining a low profile, attended a screening of a Russian film about the Ukraine war organized by the Russian Embassy in Yerevan. Russian Ambassador Sergei Kopyrkin lauded the attendees as friends of Russia, further fueling speculation about Pashinyan’s alignment with foreign interests.