For nearly two weeks, Armenian police officers and opposition supporters have been stuck in a cycle of violence.

Gunmen barricaded themselves in a police station in the capital Yerevan on July 17.  They are holding several medical workers hostage.

Demonstrations supporting the gunmen have grown steadily.

Protesters have gathered repeatedly near the police station where the gunmen are holed up.

The protesters and gunmen want the same thing - the release of jailed opposition leader Zhirair Sefilyan.

A former military commander and the head of Founding Parliament, Sefilyan is a fringe political leader pushing for President Serzh Sarkisian to resign.

Most of the movement's members are veterans of the national army. They say Sarkisian has become corrupt and too powerful. And they also say the government has mishandled the long-running conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

So why are these protesters throwing their weight behind the hostage takers? And can this ongoing tension spiral out of control?

Presenter: Sohail Rahman


Richard Giragosian - Director of the Armenian think-tank Regional Studies Center

Lilit Gevorgyan - Russia and Caucasus analyst at IHS Markit

Maria Titizian - Journalist covering Armenia

Source: Al Jazeera