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As changes in Armenia loom, some in elite head abroad

At least two notorious members of the ruling elite were spotted boarding international flights.

The speaker of Armenia's National Assembly announced that lawmakers will meet May 1 to elect a new prime minister and opposition forces were trying to gather enough votes to elect Nikol Pashinyan, the opposition MP who led the protests that toppled Serzh Sargsyan, the longtime leader.

A number of officials used the breather to travel abroad – including some of the country's most notorious members of the ruling elite, who looked like they might be making a run for it.

Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandyan and acting Deputy PM Armen Gevorgyan traveled to Moscow, while another acting Deputy PM Vache Gabrielyan visited Washington, DC.

But along with the officials on diplomatic trips, one of the country’s most notorious politicians and a judge who oversaw the trials of opposition leaders were reported to be leaving the country and sending away their families.

Among the prominent Republican Party members, former MP Arakel Movsisyan, known by nickname “Schmeiss”, was the first to be confirmed to leave the country from the Zvartnots VIP lounge. Airport staff told RFE/RL that Movsisyan left for the Russian city of Sochi “in an official delegation.”

Last Saturday, Movsisyan, accompanied by a group of men, blocked the road leading from the village of Baghramyan to Yerevan in order to prevent villagers from joining the anti-government protests. The former MP is infamous for verbally abusing and threatening his opponents as well as the press. In 2015, still an MP at that time, he threatened to behead and rape those who would criticize then-Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan and his family.

Another controversial figure spotted in the VIP lounge (by RFE/RL) was Mnatsakan Martirosyan, a judge for Yerevan's Kentron and Nork Marash Administrative Court. In 2010, Martirosyan sentenced Nikol Pashinyan to seven years in prison for Pashinyan's role in 2008 protests over Sargsyan's first election as president. Pashinyan was released under an amnesty the following year.

In addition to Pashinyan, over the past decade Martirosyan has handed jail terms to a number of prominent opposition leaders, including Shant Harutyunyan, Jirayr Sefilian, and Gevorg Safaryan.

On top of that, rumors swelled around Yerevan of other senior leaders on their way out, but they couldn't be confirmed.

As changes in Armenia loom, some in elite head abroad

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