A political group increasingly critical of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on Monday strongly denied any involvement in what Armenian authorities call a botched conspiracy to seize government buildings and “disrupt the work of government bodies.”
Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) announced last week the arrests of five persons accused of hatching the alleged plot. It said that they planned to set off an explosion and assassinate an unnamed “civilian” but gave no other details.
The NSS claimed to have found and confiscated not only weapons and ammunition but also handwritten texts detailing the planned “terrorist attacks.” A purported screenshot of one such document released by it calls for attracting members of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), a pro-Western fringe group led by Zhirayr Sefilian, a prominent nationalist figure. He was questioned as a “witness” in the case on Monday.
“The investigator’s questions were mainly about whether the NDA can be connected with such a thing,” Sefilian told a news conference later in the day. He said any he denied any involvement.
Sefilian said that he knows personally two of the arrested men. But he refused to identify them, saying only that they are not affiliated with the NDU despite having had recent “contacts” with the group over its declared attempts to oust Pashinian. Sefilian also questioned the credibility of the accusations brought against them.
“The National Democratic Alliance declares that it has nothing to do with the ‘newly discovered terrorists,’” read a separate statement released by the group.
The statement claimed that Pashinian’s government is deliberately “casting a shadow of suspicion on the NDA” in a bid to prevent it from challenging another “capitulation treaty with Azerbaijan” planned by him. It also said that despite getting Armenia “out of Russian control” Pashinian is not bringing the country closer to the West.
“The NDA will continue its public political struggle against Nikol’s defeatism, including but not limited to all legal forms of civil disobedience, direct democracy and peaceful insurrection,” concluded the statement.
Sefilian and other NDA figures have close ties to the jailed leaders of an armed group that stormed an Armenian police base in 2016 to demand that then President Serzh Sarkisian release Sefilian from jail and step down.
The three dozen gunmen, who took police officers and medical personnel hostage, laid down their weapons after a two-week standoff with security forces which left three police officers dead. All but two of them were released from custody shortly after Sarkisian was toppled in the 2018 “velvet revolution” led by Pashinian. The seven key members of the group called Sasna Tsrer were sent back to jail in May 2022.