Hundreds of soldiers have joined anti-government protests in the Armenian capital of Yerevan on Monday, accusing the country’s prime minister of corruption and authoritarian rule.
In a response to the ongoing protests, the Armenian defence ministry said it would take harsh measures against any member of the military taking part in the demonstrations.
Al Jazeera’s Robin Forestier-Walker, reporting from Yerevan, said Monday’s events are a surprising development.
“There are pictures and videos of the soldiers walking down main Yerevan streets. We understand that they are on active duty and that they are part of a peacekeeping force for missions abroad,” Walker said.
“We have also seen members of the clergy coming out into the streets to take part in the protests,” he added.
— Qnar Suchian (@QsQnarS) April 23, 2018
Monday marked the eleventh consecutive day of anti-government protests in Armenia.
On Sunday, Nikol Pashinyan and two other opposition politicians were arrested at a protest in Yerevan.
A statement from the prosecutor general said the opposition leaders “were detained as they were committing socially dangerous acts” and the government justified their arrest during a press conference on Monday.
The protest movement, which has seen thousands of people take to the streets since April 13, largely comprised a network of self-organising opposition supporters, built by Pashinyan.
According to Walker, the mood among the protesters has been largely positive, adding that it is hard to know what will happen next.
“Both sides will be watching each other very closely on how to move forward,” he said.
Protesters have called on Serzh Sargsyan, Armenia’s prime minister, to step down citing corruption allegations and fears of oligarchic, authoritarian rule.
Sargsyan was appointed prime minister this month after serving 10 years as the country’s president.
However, Sargsyan has made clear he has no intention of stepping down.