Armenia began three days of mourning on Saturday for the victims of clashes with Azerbaijan as the opposition kept up pressure on the country’s leader to resign over the handling of the conflict.
More than 5,000 people including civilians were killed in Armenia and Azerbaijan when clashes erupted between the ex-Soviet enemies in late September over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The war ended in November with a peace agreement brokered by Moscow under which Armenia ceded swathes of territory to Azerbaijan, which has been backed by its close ally Turkey.
The deal sparked fury in Armenia, and the opposition has urged the country’s prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, to resign.
On the first day of the national mourning on Saturday, Pashinyan was expected to lead a procession to a memorial complex in the capital Yerevan where victims of the conflict are buried.
The opposition planned to hold a separate march later in the day. Pashinyan’s critics have called on supporters to stage a national strike from 22 December.
“The entire nation has been through and is going through a nightmare,” Pashinyan said in a video address before the memorial march. “Sometimes it seems that all of our dreams have been dashed and our optimism destroyed.”
The 45-year-old former newspaper editor was propelled to power in 2018 after he channelled widespread desire for change into a broad protest movement against corrupt post-Soviet elites.
But after six weeks of clashes with Azerbaijan, many have called Pashinyan a traitor for agreeing to what they say is a humiliating deal with Azerbaijan. He has so far refused to step down.
Russia deployed nearly 2,000 peacekeeping troops to Karabakh as part of the deal.
Moscow said on Friday that a Russian mine clearer had been killed in Karabakh when an explosive went off earlier in the week.