What is Happening on the Lachin Road? (OPINION)
by Naghi Ahmadov
Russian peacekeepers have blocked the Lachin road following the peaceful protest by Azerbaijani eco-activists, NGO members since December 12. The representatives of the Azerbaijani civil society are expressing their concerns mainly related to environmental problems. They are demanding to stop looting of Azerbaijan’s natural resources; creating conditions for employees of relevant Azerbaijani government agencies to conduct field studies in mineral deposits; and meeting with the commander of the Russian peacekeepers, Major General Andrey Volkov to ask a guarantee for the implementation of these reuqests.
Instead of fulfilling immediately the rightful demands of the representatives of civil society, Russian peacekeepers that temporarily stationed in Khankendi and the surrounding region have chosen to block the road and escalate the situation. As known, the shortest way from Yerevan to Khankendi (or vice versa) passes through Lachin road.
Despite passing four days, no agreement has been reached yet. The protestors seem quite serious in their demands. Unless a compromise is reached, it is absolutely not excluded that the Lachin road may remain closed for a long time. A way out of the situation is clearly that the Russian general should appear before the citizens of Azerbaijan and give a full guarantee that the demands will be fulfilled. Otherwise, civil Armenian population of Khankendi city will continue to suffer a complete nightmare. However, Russian General Volkov currently does not dare and is seemingly interested in a situation that could lead to tension.
It is noteworthy to mention that the events have reached a peak when employees of ETSN and Azergold company of Azerbaijan were hindered to conduct field research in the region based on a pre-arranged agreement a few days ago. The intended preliminary review and monitoring did not take place due to the fact that the Russian peacekeepers not only did not create the necessary conditions, but also participated in the scenario of intentional violation of this process. Thus, the momentum was lost to resolve the problems and the opposite sides put themselves in a desperate situation.
Although Russian President Vladimir Putin called Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan by phone after the protest started, no change in the current situation has been observed since then. And there is no doubt that the only way out in such a situation is the immediate and complete implementation of tripartite agreements by the Russian peacekeepers.
In general, the latest developments around the Russian peacekeepers in Khankendi and surrounding region of Azerbaijan, such as transporting weapons and ammunition to Azerbaijani territories through the Lachin road and plundering Azerbaijan’s natural resources in partnership with Armenian-Russian billionaire Ruben Vardanyan are reasonably deemed sufficient grounds for their disqualification. Thus, we have every justification for saying that Russian peacekeepers’ term will unlikely be extended in 2025 as far as they do not comply with obligations arising from tripartite agreements.
Furthermore, Azerbaijani authorities definitely cannot turn a blind eye to all of those irrefutable facts about these military and economic crimes. The situation requires them to take decisive steps to establish order and law in the Karabakh region once and for all. Also, it has to be borne in mind that illegal exploitation of mineral deposits which is carried out in Azerbaijani territories where Russian peacekeeping forces are temporarily stationed is a clear violation of Geneva Convention of 1949.
To sum up, due to the protest, illegal transportation of objects, such as military equipments and natural resources became impossible during the last four days. Having said that, civilian vehicles, as demonstrators also declare, can freely pass through the road. However, as said before, it is Russian peacekeeping forces in close collaboration with the so-called regime in Karabakh who keep the only road linking Khankendi with Yerevan in a blockade to prevent Armenian population of Karabakh leaving Khankendi. Blocking the so-called “Lachin corridor” for humanitarian purposes aims to use it for everything or nothing at all. And in doing so, they apparently want to to preserve the separatist regime there alive and impose conditions for further continuation of hostilities between the two people as they typically do in different part of the world. That is the point which international community should be aware of what is actually happining in the Karabakh region right now.
Naghi Ahmadov, a senior fellow at the Center of Analysis of International Relations (AIR Center), especially for News.Az