Kapan Mayor Gevorg Parsyan was informed on Thursday that all military positions in the city, which is in Armenia’s Syunik Province, must be surrendered to Azerbaijani forces by 5 p.m. Friday, news.am reported.
“The Defense Ministry has issued an order to surrender to the enemy, by 5 p.m. [local time] tomorrow, all the positions we held for the defense of Kapan,” Parsyan said, adding that this will make the entire city defenseless.
Parsyan explained that with this retreat or surrender the security zone around the city of Kapan will disappear and that “the enemy will be one kilometer from our residential zone, and 200 to 300 meters from the airport. Our rural roads will be blocked. This is an ugly situation.”
The Kapan mayor 10 village will be impacted by the new mandate, among them the Akarag, Yeghvart, Khndrants, Oujanis, Jakaten, Shikahogh, Srashen, Nerkin Hand, Tzav, Shikert villages, the latter six of which will have no other transportation routes.
He said that he had been raising the alarm about this since the November 9 agreement, which ended the war, but has called into question Armenia’s territorial integrity and saw the surrender of Artsakh territories to Azerbaijan.
“I have been saying that if such a situation occurs where we are returning to Soviet era boundaries, Kapan will be rendered defenseless,” explained Parsyan, who said that if there were any discussions about this, he was not included in them.
He said that he was informed of the possibility of Russian guards being stationed along the border, whose main task would have been to ensure the safety of the roads leading to the city.
Armenia’s Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutyunyan was visiting the Syunik Province, but had not visited Kapan at the time of Parsyan’s statements.
Hundreds of local residents closed a section of the main Syunik road to demand a halt to the troop withdrawal. The protesters said that Azerbaijani forces will now be stationed dangerously close to their communities.
“Our security won’t be guaranteed,” one of them told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “How can we be sure that their snipers won’t shoot at us from there?”
The troop redeployments also raised questions about the safety of the highway connecting Kapan to another provincial town, Goris. Some of its sections straddle the Soviet-era Armenian-Azerbaijani border, reported Azatutyun.am
Syunik Governor Melikset Poghosyan talked to the protesters and tried to allay their fears. He said that the security risks resulting from ongoing delimitations of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border can be minimized.
Defense Minister Harutiunyan toured Syunik to discuss practical modalities of the troop redeployment with local military commander and provincial authorities.
In a statement on Harutiunyan’s visit, the Armenian Defense Ministry announced that more Russian border guards will be deployed at “some sections of the Syunik border.” It gave no other details.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan insisted on Wednesday that Armenia will not lose any inch of its internationally recognized territory as a result of the border delimitations. “The borders are being demarcated on the basis of Soviet-era maps,” he said.
Parsyan and the residents are demanding Pashinyan’s resignation.