December 8, 2021 - 11:22 AMT
Parents of missing soldiers, PoWs block roads in Yerevan, Gyumri

The parents and families of missing and captured Armenian servicemen blocked all the streets leading to the Republic Square in downtown Yerevan on Tuesday, December 7, while another group gathered in front of the governor's office in Gyumri, the province of Shirak.

The campaign came after a leaked video showed Parliament Speaker Alen Simonyan describing the captives as "deserters" and saying that "the captives do not exist" for him.

In Yerevan, the police attempted to detain Arsen Ghukasyan, one of the demonstrators, and when he asked for a reason, officers said he had violated traffic rules.

A video began to spread on Telegram channels on Tuesday, showing Simonyan at an event and speaking to an unidentified person, accusing the captives of laying down arms and surrendering, and claiming that they "no longer exist" for him. The President of the National Assembly went on to describe the prisoners of war still being held in Azerbaijan as "deserters".

Later in the day, an extended version of the video featured Simonyan saying: "If I have to lose Syunik, Sisian because of the captives, I'm sorry for saying this, I think they (the PoWs - Ed.) no longer exist". He also said that the government will nonetheless bring back the captives and added that "the whole country cannot be held hostage to the issue."