Armenian leader resigns, says to protesters: ‘I was wrong’

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Opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan delivers a speech during a protest against the appointment of ex-president Serzh Sarksyan as the new prime minister, after being released by police in central Yerevan on April 23, 2018. (REUTERS/Hayk Baghdasaryan/Photolure)
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Armenians celebrate prime minister Serzh Sarkisian's resignation in downtown Yerevan on April 23, 2018. (AFP / Vano Shlamov)
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People celebrate Armenian prime minister Serzh Sarkisian's resignation in downtown Yerevan on April 23, 2018. (AFP / KAREN MINASYAN)
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In this photo taken on Sunday, April 22, 2018, former Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, left, leaves a meeting with protest leader Nikol Pashinian, right, in Yerevan. Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan has resigned, according to his website. (Hrant Khachatryan/PAN Photo via AP)
Updated 23 April 2018
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Armenian leader resigns, says to protesters: ‘I was wrong’

  • Armenians have poured out into the streets in protest over Sargsyan's apparent attempt to perpetuate himself in power
  • Former Prime Minister Karen Karapetian was named acting premier and opposition leader Nikol Pashinian was released from detention

YEREVAN: Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan resigned unexpectedly Monday to quell massive anti-government protests over what critics feared was his effort to seize power for life.
Residents of the capital, Yerevan, poured out on the streets to celebrate his stunning departure. People hugged and kissed each other, and motorists honked their horns.
Protest leader “Nikol Pashinian was right. I was wrong,” Sargsyan, a former Armenian president, said in a surprise announcement on his website. “The movement on the streets is against my rule. I’m complying with their demands.”
The move plunges the Caucasian Mountains country into uncertainty after 10 days of protests against Sargsyan’s appointment as prime minister.
The appointment was part of a transition to a new governmental system that reduces the powers of the presidency and bolsters those of the premier. Critics saw that as an attempt by 63-year-old Sargsyan, who served as president from 2008 until term limits forced him out in March, to stay in power indefinitely.
It echoes similar tenure-lengthening maneuvers by Russian President Vladimir Putin — Armenia’s closest ally. Leaders of other former Soviet republics from Belarus to Central Asia have also engineered themselves lifetime jobs.
The streets of Yerevan have turned into masses of human anger since anti-government protesters began rallying on April 13, blocking government buildings and facing off with police. Sunday’s rally attracted some 50,000 demonstrators.
Pashinian, the protest leader, was arrested on Sunday after he met the prime minister for talks. Sargsyan abruptly ended the meeting when Pashinian refused to discuss anything besides the prime minister’s resignation. The protest leader was released from custody Monday afternoon.
Sargsyan said Monday that he should not have resisted the demands of the opposition.
Opposition leaders have not yet commented on Sargsyan’s resignation and have called a rally in central Yerevan for Monday evening.
The Armenian government quickly named former Prime Minister Karen Karapetian as acting premier. A Sargsyan ally, Karapetian also served as mayor of Yerevan and worked in Russia for five years as a senior executive of state-controlled gas giant Gazprom.
Alexander Iskanderian, director of the Caucasus Institute in Yerevan, told The Associated Press that the protests drove Sargsyan into a corner:
“The protests in the past couple of days have swelled to a point that you either had to use violence or find another way out,” Iskanderian said.
Russian officials and state television have been cautious in commenting on the unrest in Armenia. In the past, Moscow decried anti-government rallies in neighboring post-Soviet nations as example of hostile Western interference.
In what appeared to be the first official Russian reaction to the resignation of the Armenian premier, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova lauded Sargsyan’s decision as a move to unify the nation.
“The people who have the strength to keep respect toward each other despite crucial differences and stay united even in the most difficult moments of its history is a great people,” Zakharova wrote on her Facebook account. “Armenia, Russia is always with you!“
When Sargsyan switched to the prime minister’s job, ally Armen Sarkisian, a former prime minister and ambassador to Britain, was elected president in Sargsyan’s place. Sarkisian was seen as an unofficial Sargsyan appointee.
 


Delhi braces for pollution with emergency plan

Updated 15 October 2018
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Delhi braces for pollution with emergency plan

  • Under the new strategy, restrictions on construction sites and traffic will be imposed depending on the air quality

NEW DELHI, India: Delhi’s biggest coal power plant was set to shut down Monday as a new emergency plan to improve air quality in one of the world’s most polluted cities came into force, Indian officials said.
Under the new strategy, restrictions on construction sites and traffic will be imposed depending on the air quality in the megacity of some 20 million people.
When the air is classed as “poor,” as it was on Monday, authorities will ban the burning of garbage in landfills as well as fire crackers and certain construction activities.
When the air is “very poor” diesel generators will be halted, parking fees hiked and more public transport provided. “Severe” measures include closing brick kilns.
When it reaches “severe+,” a new category, authorities will stop the entry of trucks except those with essential goods and regulate the number of cars on the road.
The Badarpur thermal plant was due to permanently close on Monday because of its high contribution to pollution in the city.
Smog spikes during winter in Delhi, when air quality often eclipses the World Health Organization’s safe levels.
Cooler air traps pollutants — such as from vehicles, building sites and farmers burning crops in regions outside the Indian capital — close to the ground.
Authorities in the sprawling city attempted to implement similar measures last winter but to little avail.
This is partly because authorities are powerless to prevent some sources of pollution.
“Our aim is to stop the air quality from deteriorating further though certain factors are out of our control such as crop burning, wind speed and lack of public transportation,” environment authority official Bhure Lal said.