Police detain a man in Yerevan, Armenia, April 22 2018. Picture: REUTERS
Police detain a man in Yerevan, Armenia, April 22 2018. Picture: REUTERS

Yerevan — Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sarksyan said he was resigning on Monday to help maintain civic peace following almost two weeks of mass street protests, which have plunged the impoverished former Soviet republic into political crisis.

Sarksyan, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, served as Armenia’s president for a decade until earlier in April and faced accusations of clinging to power when parliament elected him as prime minister last week.

Under a revised constitution, the prime minister holds most power, while the presidency has become largely ceremonial.

Pressure on the 63-year-old to resign increased sharply on Monday when unarmed soldiers in the capital, Yerevan, joined the antigovernment protests which began on April 13. Though peaceful, the tumult has threatened to destabilise Armenia, a key Russian ally in a volatile region riven by its decades-long conflict with Azerbaijan. Moscow, which has two military bases in Armenia, was closely watching events.

"I got it wrong," Sarksyan said in a statement. He said he was bowing to protesters’ demands and wanted his country to remain peaceful.

Former Armenian prime minister Karen Karapetyan, an ally of Sarksyan, was named as acting prime minister, Russia’s RIA news agency said, citing the Armenian government’s press office.