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Armenia says assassination attempt on prime minister thwarted

Over 2,000 soldiers killed in nearly two months of clashes with Azerbaijan; at least 143 civilians confirmed dead in fighting

This screen grab taken from video published on Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian's official FaceBook page shows Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian addressing the nation from an unknown location in Armenia, November 11, 2020 (@nikol.pashinyan, Armenian Prime Minister official Facebook account via AP)
This screen grab taken from video published on Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian's official FaceBook page shows Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian addressing the nation from an unknown location in Armenia, November 11, 2020 (@nikol.pashinyan, Armenian Prime Minister official Facebook account via AP)

The former head of Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) Artur Vanetsyan was arrested on Saturday on charges of plotting to kill Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and seize power.

The security service additionally said a man identified as a “war volunteer,” Ashot Minasyan, was also under arrest.

“The suspects were planning to illegally usurp power by murdering the prime minister and there were already potential candidates being discussed to replace him,” the NSS said in a statement, according to the Reuters news agency.

The arrest came after a week of protests in which demonstrations and opposition parties called for Pashinyan to resign, as the country said that more than two thousand fighters were killed in six weeks of clashes with Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

“To date, our forensic service has examined the corpses of 2,317 dead servicemen, including unidentified ones,” Armenian health ministry spokeswoman Alina Nikoghosyan wrote on Facebook.

Ethnic Armenian soldiers ride a car passing the border between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia near Vardenis, Nov. 8, 2020 (AP Photo)

The updated death toll from the Armenian side pushes its fatalities up by nearly 1,000 compared to the last confirmed toll among Armenian fighters.

Nearly two months of fierce clashes between the ex-Soviet rivals ended this week with a Russian-brokered peace accord that sees Armenia cede swathes of territory captured by Azerbaijan’s forces.

Baku’s army has never revealed details of its military fatalities, but the overall human cost of the fighting is expected to be much higher than reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that the number of fatalities in the conflict was higher than 4,000 and that some 8,000 people had been left injured.

At least 143 civilians have been confirmed dead in the fighting.

Putin said that tens of thousands of people had been displaced by the heavy clashes that also left “civilian infrastructure and numerous cultural sites” destroyed.

The peace deal stipulates that Azerbaijan’s forces will retain control over areas seized in the fighting, including the second-largest town of Shusha, while Armenia agreed to a timetable to withdraw from large parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding regions.

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