Russian Peacekeepers in Active Negotiations to End Standoff
Artsakh on the Brink of Humanitarian Crisis, Authorities Warn
Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Goris-Stepanakert Highway through the Lachin Corridor continued into a second day on Tuesday as reportedly 1,110 people, 270 of them children, are stranded along the various stretches of the highway.
Artsakh’s Human Rights Ombudsman Gegham Stepanyan said that the people stranded on the road are facing harsh, cold winter conditions and the children are separated from their families.
A group of Azerbaijanis blockaded the Lachin Corridor—the only road connecting Armenia with Artsakh—on Monday claiming they were environmental activists protesting alleged illegal transfer of toxic materials on the road and the use of mines. The Russian peacekeeping contingent has been holding the so-called protesters at bay to avoid the escalation of the situation.
Artsakh authorities said that the villages of Mets Shen, Hin Shen, Lisagor, and Yeghtsahogh, which are in the immediate vicinity of the Lachin Corridor are cut off from Artsakh proper.
Negotiations are underway with the Russian peacekeeping command. The stranded passengers have vowed to remain on the road until it is opened.
“The command of the Russian peacekeeping troops is negotiating with the representatives of Azerbaijan in order to resume the unhindered movement of civilian vehicles on the Stepanakert-Goris road,” a statement by the Russian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday. It also added that the peacekeepers are on active patrol duty in the Martuni, Martakert and Shushi regions.
Stepanyan, the Artsakh Human Rights Defender, said the blockade is “yet another aspect of Azerbaijan’s policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide. It is being carried out consistently and systematically.”
He said Azerbaijan’s “environmental agenda” is completely fake, and there is information that those blocking the road are getting instructions from Azerbaijani authorities and some even belong to the country’s special services.
“The self-declared environmental activists are just a tool for Azerbaijan to take those horrible steps. In the 21st century, the entire population of the region is facing the threat of starvation,” Artsakh’s Acting Foreign Minister Davit Babayan said.
In Baku, Hikmet Hajiyev, the presidential foreign policy adviser, told foreign diplomats accredited in Azerbaijan that Artsakh Armenians were allegedly using gold and copper mines illegally.
“The illegal exploitation of gold and copper-molybdenum mines in the Karabakh economic zone must be stopped,” Hajiyev said, saying Armenia was using Azerbaijan’s natural resources during the past decades and that “the same activity in territory under the control of Russian peacekeepers is now being observed.”
He warned of impending shortages, especially of medial supplies, food and fuel, that could cause a humanitarian crisis if the blockade continues. Deliveries of food, in particular bread and flour, and other essential necessities like energy, have become impossible, ArtsakhInfo, the government’s press service reported on Tuesday.
He called the attention of international human rights organizations to the fact that 120,000 people in Artsakh are currently in blockade. He stressed that Artsakh also lacks air traffic with any country of the world.
“We will need to use the airport for humanitarian purposes if we do not manage to unblock the land route,” Stepanyan said. “But Azerbaijan will create obstacles to air traffic as well, threatening any objects flying out of Stepanakert to be destroyed. So we are witnessing that Azerbaijan is blocking all the avenues that provide transport for Artsakh with the world.”
“The basic rights of the people of Artsakh are being violated, and this is being carried out by the Azerbaijani authorities under the direct orders of President Ilham Aliyev,” Stepanyan added.
“The people of Artsakh have been under a complete blockade for 32 hours. If this is not a crime, what is it?” Stepanyan wrote on Twitter.