Armenians throng center of the capital to demand the prime minister’s resignation

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YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Tens of thousands of demonstrators held a protest Sunday in the center of the capital of Armenia, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan after Armenia agreed to hand over control of several border villages to Azerbaijan.

The demonstration was the latest in a weekslong series of gatherings led by a high-ranking cleric in the Armenian Apostolic Church, Bagrat Galstanyan, archbishop of the Tavush diocese in Armenia’s northeast.

He spearheaded the formation of a movement called Tavush For The Homeland after Armenia in April agreed to cede control of four villages in the region to Azerbaijan. Although the villages were the movement’s core issue, it has expanded to express a wide array of complaints about Pashinyan and his government.

Movement leaders told the rally Sunday that they support Galstanyan becoming the next prime minister.

The decision to turn over the villages in Tavush followed the lightning military campaign in September in which Azerbaijan’s military forced ethnic Armenian separatist authorities in the Karabakh region to capitulate.

After Azerbaijan took full control of Karabakh, about 120,000 people fled the region, almost all of its ethnic Armenian population.

Ethnic Armenian fighters backed by Armenian forces had taken control of Karabakh in 1994 at the end of a six-year war. Azerbaijan regained some of the territory in fighting in 2020 that ended in an armistice that brought in a Russian peacekeeper force, which began withdrawing this year.

Pashinyan has said Armenia needs to quickly define the border with Azerbaijan to avoid a new round of hostilities.

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