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Armenia Leader ends 10-year rule after soldiers join protesters

THOUSANDS poured into Yerevan’s main square today to celebrate the resignation of Armenian premier Serzh Sargsyan after 11 days of protests.

Mr Sargsyan made the shock announcement a day after he had rejected opposition calls for his resignation.

In a dramatic turnabout Armenia’s prime minister brought an end to his 10-year rule after soldiers joined the growing opposition rallies calling for him to quit.

In a statement to the country Mr Sargsyan said he was fulfilling the demand of the protesters.

“The movement of the street is against my tenure, “ he said, adding that opposition leader “Nikol Pashinian was right. I was wrong.”

Mr Pashinian was released today, along with other opposition leaders arrested yesterday for organising unlawful rallies and held at a secret location.

Their detention failed to quell the protests, with a large march demanding their release led by members of the Armenian clergy.

Demonstrations in opposition to Mr Sargsyan have taken place since April 9, when he was appointed Armenia’s prime minister after his two-term presidency had ended.

Constitutional changes approved in 2015 meant the presidency becoming a ceremonial role, with the prime minister now leading a parliamentary republic, so in effect Mr Sargsyan was taking a third term as leader, something he had previously vowed not to do.

Previous elections had been marred by allegations of corruption. Demonstrations in March 2008 saw 10 killed in a clampdown by the authorities.

This month’s anti-government protests have been led by young Armenians seeking political reform, with opposition groups accusing Mr Sargsyan of a desperate bid to cling on to power.

Crowds waving Armenian flags chanted the name of Civil Contract party leader Mr Pashinian as he congratulated them for their “victory.”

“You have won, proud citizens of the Republic of Armenia. And no-one can seize this victory from you. I congratulate you, victorious people,” he said.

They were joined by hundreds of Armenian soldiers wearing military uniforms, despite warnings by the defence ministry that they would face severe punishment if they took part in demonstrations.

Mr Sargsyan’s spokesman Hovhannes Nikoghosyan said: “I think his resignation is a clear demonstration of a democracy in force. It’s not that every demonstration in every corner of the world leads to the resignation of the authorities.”

Despite the resignation the government is unchanged, with former prime minister Karen Karapetyan stepping in as interim PM.

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