For nearly a month Armenian politician and newspaper oligarch Nikol Pashinyan has led protests throughout the country demanding effective “regime change” aimed at making Pashinyan, the leader of a parliamentary minority party, the new Prime Minister of the country.
After a vote in the National Assembly failed to elect Pashinyan Prime Minister, he called on his protesters to block all major roads, including those to and from the country’s international airport. Late on the 2nd of May, Pashinyan called off further protests as the ruling Republican party pledged its future support to which ever candidate “gets nominated by one-third of parliamentarians”. In reality, this will be Pashinyan.
Today, a lone assailant apparently took advantage of the prevailing political chaos in the country and opened fire inside a bank in Yerevan. One bank security guard and one police officer were killed in the shoot out while another officer is critically injured. Police officers later identified the suspect as local traffic cop Daniel Danielyan. Danielyan was trying to escape the scene with money he robbed from the bank when the shooting occurred.
While it is not clear if the incident is directly linked to the protests, at the very minimum it does represent a breakdown in law and order in the midst of a chaotic period in the country. At the same time, Members of Azerbaijan’s parliament have warned that if the situation in Armenia deteriorates further, Azerbaijani troops may cross the contact line and re-enter the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh which is internationally recognised as Azerbaijan’s territory but which is currently ruled by an Armenian administration with the tacit approval of Yerevan and the vast majority of Armenians.
Today’s shooting represents the first instance of overt violence since the beginning of the protests. It remains to be seen if authorities can bring back stability to the situation before the National Assembly votes for a new Premier on the 8th of May.