Thousands of Artsakh residents turned out on Tuesday for a rally dubbed “No to Ethnic Cleansing” in Stepanakert, where ceremonies were held earlier to mark “Victory Day,” the holiday commemorating the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany. May 9 also marked the 31st anniversary of the liberation of Shushi.
The rally kicked off at Stepanakert’s Renaissance Square with a prayer and a moment of silence observed honoring those who gave their lives for Artsakh’s freedom, as well as during what is called the Great Patriotic War, ArtsakhPress reported.
The text of a petition addressed to the leaders of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing countries—the United States, Russia and France—and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan was read to overwhelming applause as a sign of popular approval for the message.
“We demand that all international mechanism are applied to ensure the implementation of the terms of the November 9, 2020 agreement as well as the UN International Court of Justice ruling,” the petition said, referencing the February ruling by the United Nations court, which ordered Azerbaijan to immediately ensure “unimpeded movement” along the Lachin Corridor. Azerbaijan has refused to comply with the court’s order.
Among the speakers at the rally was Artsakh former state minister Ruben Vardanyan who signaled that the people of Artsakh are ready to take part in negotiations with Azerbaijan “but not with a gun to our head.”
“On April 23, Azerbaijan violated the red lines and installed a checkpoint. The violation of these red lines makes us struggle, as honorable people, because we have no other option. No one should restrict our free access and egress to and from Armenia,” Vardanyan said.
“We have been under a blockade for 149 days already. We do not have gas and power, and you are aware of the situation in Sarsang reservoir,” Vardanyan added referring to the recently receding levels of the reservoir that is the main source of water for Artsakh residents.
“We have many problems, but we are not giving up. The situation is difficult, but one thing is certain, there can be no talk about any so-called reintegration,” emphasized Vardanyan in a direct retort to Baku’s demands that Artsakh resident accept Azerbaijani citizenship.
“We are defending our homes, our cities and villages, the graves of our ancestors, our right to live on our land. We do not want to attack anyone, we want a calm and happy life in our homeland. We are ready for negotiations, but these negotiations cannot take place with a gun to our head, but only in case of mutual respect,” Vardanyan said, calling on Armenians around the world to unite for Artsakh.
Also attending the rally was Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan, together with his predecessors Arkady Ghukasyan and Bako Sahakyan.