PM hints that Armenia can’t rely on Russia’s protection amid Karabakh debacle

The Kyiv Independent
Sept 24 2023
by Igor Kossov andThe Kyiv Independent news desk

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan hinted on Sept. 24 that his country can no longer rely on Russia's protection after the Azerbaijani army quickly defeated ethnic Armenian forces in the restive Nagorno-Karabakh region.  

"The recent attacks on Armenia by Azerbaijan allow us to draw an obvious conclusion that the external security systems in which we are involved are not effective from the point of view of state interests and the country's security," he said in a public comment on TV.

Armenia belongs to the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Russian-led military bloc.

Moscow has sent "peacekeepers" to the region but they had very little impact on Azerbaijan's military strike. Hundreds are believed to have died and there were widely publicized images of Armenians fleeing through Russia's own peacekeeping base.

Several of these "peacekeepers" were killed, Moscow later admitted.

This may be reportedly causing an upswell of anti-Russian feelings in Armenia. It is also being reported as a sign of Russia's waning influence in the lands of the former Soviet Union.
Meanwhile, Pashinyan's chief of staff, Araik Harutyunyan, charged that Russian media is already waging a hybrid disinformation war against his country.    

In his Facebook account, Harutyanyan cited an example of a fake story, in which protesters in Yerevan supposedly broke into a government building and saw American airborne troops inside.

In reality, no protesters stormed government buildings that day, he added.

On Sept. 20, Nagorno-Karabakh surrendered to the Azerbaijani military in exchange for a Russian-brokered ceasefire after one day of attacks by Azerbaijani forces.

Nagorno-Karabakh is recognized as Azerbaijani territory under international law. Its population of 120,000 is predominantly Armenian.

The territory declared independence in 1991 with Yerevan's military support. Until 2020, Armenia de facto controlled Nagorno-Karabakh together with the surrounding regions.

In 2021 Azerbaijani forces also invaded several internationally recognized Armenian territories in the east of the country and are still occupying them.

Azerbaijan's 2023 offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh came amid deteriorating relations between Armenia and Russia. Speculation is rife that the Kremlin has intentionally allowed Azerbaijan to defeat Nagorno-Karabakh in an effort to unseat Pashinyan, who has flirted with the West.

On Sept. 11, Armenian and U.S. forces started joint military exercises.

Moscow reacted negatively to the exercises. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he does not expect "anything good" to come out of the drills.

On Sept. 1, the Armenian government also sent the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC), to the parliament for ratification.

The move irritated Russia because the ICC has issued an arrest warrant for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. Russia has called Armenia's intention to ratify the statute "unacceptable" and warned about "extremely negative consequences."

Meanwhile, Russian propagandist Vladimir Solovyov has threatened that the Kremlin could launch an invasion of Armenia and Georgia.

Passenger plane crash-lands in Russia


YEREVAN, SEPTEMBER 12, ARMENPRESS. An Airbus A320 en route from Sochi to Omsk declared a mid-flight emergency on Tuesday morning and was redirected to an alternate airfield in Novosibirsk, but failed to reach it, RT reported citing emergency services.  

The aircraft operated by Ural Airlines, with 159 passengers, including 23 children, and 6 crew members on board was forced to perform an emergency landing in a field 180km away from Novosibirsk International Airport. The incident was reportedly caused by a hydraulics malfunction, according to preliminary reports.

Early reports noted that none of the passengers or crew suffered any serious injuries. The authorities said the aircraft remained in one piece upon landing, there was no fire on board, and that everyone safely evacuated the plane using emergency slides.

The Russian aviation authorities have launched a probe into the circumstances of the incident, according to RT.

In 2019, another Ural Airlines plane performed a similar miracle landing in a cornfield near Moscow, after the airliner hit a flock of birds upon takeoff. Having no time to dump its fuel, the pilots decided to land the heavy-loaded aircraft with its wheels up, and the crew managed to safely evacuate all 226 passengers.

Lachin corridor needs more than EU tunnel vision

Social Europe
Sept 5 2023

If Europe does not wake up to the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, it could be complicit in genocide.

Looking on: members of the EU Mission in Armenia can only observe a humanitarian convoy blocked at the Lachin corridor (EUMA)

In 1992, images of emaciated Bosnian men and boys in a Bosnian-Serb concentration camp shocked the world. Yet, three decades on, starvation is once again being wielded as a weapon in a bitter European territorial dispute which is being shamefully overlooked by most world leaders.

For almost nine months, Azerbaijan has imposed a brutal blockade on the Lachin corridor, the only land route into the ethnic-Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh—also known as Artsakh. It is effectively under siege.

Supermarket shelves lie empty, vital medicines for serious health conditions are in desperately short supply, miscarriages are on the rise and a severe lack of fuel has led to rolling blackouts across the capital, Stepanakert. Civilians are starving, while farmers do not have enough fuel to harvest crops. Last month the first prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo, warned that a ‘genocide’ was brewing.

Azerbaijan is hoping that its man-made famine will eventually strangle the enclave into submission, forcing the Artsakh authorities to dissolve their republic and allow Azerbaijan to take control. This would be the final move in a 30-year campaign for Azerbaijani dominance in the region.

Ever since the Soviet Union broke apart in the early 1990s, war has threatened the Caucasus. In 1991-4, conflict erupted between now-independent Armenia and Azerbaijan, which both laid claim to Nagorno-Karabakh. Tens of thousands died and even more were displaced. Armenia emerged the victor and the Republic of Artsakh secured its independence, which had been formally declared in 1991 yet never recognised internationally.

Despite the ceasefire, both sides remained on a perpetual war footing, with sporadic clashes until September 2020 when Azerbaijan launched a full-scale offensive against Armenian forces in Artsakh. This time it held the advantage, having used its vast fossil-fuel wealth to purchase an array of Turkish drones and Israeli loitering munitions, which provided vital air supremacy in the battlefield.

The superior military technology, and cover from Turkey, allowed Azerbaijan to force Armenia swiftly on to the back foot, its military ally—Russia—failing to come to its aid. After two months of bitter fighting and Azerbaijani territorial gains, Russia brokered a ceasefire, deploying its own peacekeepers to keep the Lachin corridor open.

Russia’s reluctance to stand up to Azerbaijan highlights its waning influence in the Caucasus—a reality exacerbated by its reckless decision to invade Ukraine in February 2022. Yet Russia’s disastrous military gambit is one of the key factors distracting the west from the boiling tensions in the Caucasus.

The European Union, as with the United States, has thrown enormous financial, political, and military resources into Ukraine’s defence. This commitment has provided unwitting cover for the EU’s slow response to the actions meanwhile by Baku.

After the invasion, the EU tried to halt oil and gas imports from Russia, seeking supplies elsewhere. Gulf states, Algeria, Israel and Egypt helped to fill the void—but so did Azerbaijan, putting the EU in an awkward position regarding any negotiations over the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict and the blockade of the Lachin corridor.

Although France is supposedly preparing a resolution to submit to the United Nations Security Council, and the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, has encouraged a step-by-step approach, other diplomatic efforts by the EU, the US and even Russia to end the blockade have failed. Desperate pleas by the Armenian government to the UN and the International Court of Justice have seemingly fallen on deaf ears, leaving those trapped in Artsakh—but also those making the decisions in Azerbaijan—to believe western leaders have all but turned their backs on the crisis.

The situation in the Caucasus—as in Ukraine—highlights how unresolved territorial disputes can open the door to future conflicts, as well as undermining key relationships in geopolitical hotspots. This is no more apparent than in the far east, where regional disputes are affecting the outcome of conflicts in the South China Sea.

Just consider the longstanding Filipino claim to the Sabah region of Malaysian Borneo. For decades this dispute had largely been ignored, until militants—linked to an illegitimate heir of the defunct Sultanate of Sulu—landed on the coast of Sabah in 2013 and clashed with Malaysian security forces. Though Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram, head of the Sulu household, condemned the incursion, the violence left dozens dead and strained relations between Malaysia and the Philippines—two regional partners which remain key to repelling Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.

The clash still reverberates. Last year, the heirs of the sultanate were awarded $15 billion in a controversial arbitration case against Malaysia for non-payment of a colonial-era land-lease fee. The award was a serious blow to Malaysian public finances and once again raised tensions between Malaysia and the Philippines, which despite distancing itself from the case still officially lays claim to Sabah.

Fortunately, on appeal the award was annulled—the Spanish arbitrator behind the original case even faces criminal prosecution for contempt of court. But the dispute eroded the credibility of international arbitration mechanisms, which remain a profoundly important instrument for the peaceful resolution of intricate and tense territorial disputes among sovereign nations.

Returning to the Caucasus, a failure of diplomacy now could have consequences for decades. To avoid the situation in Artsakh spiralling into genocide, more must be done by major powers to bring the countries in dispute to the negotiating table.

World leaders and the UN must step up their diplomatic efforts to end the blockade of the corridor, by undermining Azerbaijan’s strong negotiating position. If they succeed, this could even become a pivotal moment for western powers offering a critical counterbalance to Russia’s waning influence in the region.

This begins with the realisation that energy security cannot trump human rights. The EU must step up investment in renewable-energy production to wean itself off fossil fuels controlled by autocratic powers—a move long overdue.

But the union must also use every tool at its disposal. For example, Azerbaijan enjoys firm support from Turkey for its policy towards Armenia and Artsakh. Tthe EU must use its strong, if complex, ties to Turkey to press Azerbaijan to lift the blockade. Without Turkey’s unequivocal support, Azerbaijan would find itself very isolated in the region.

Time is of the essence. And dialogue—on which the European Council wishes to rely—can only go so far. If diplomatic negotiations do not progress, the UN must send human-rights investigators to assess Azerbaijan’s forced starvation of Artsakh. This could even entail slapping sanctions on Azerbaijan to help it understand it cannot act with impunity and flout international norms.

Without action, thousands of civilians in Artsakh—including children and new-born babies—are at risk of starvation and death. If Azerbaijan’s oil and gas wealth were to allow it to withstand meek diplomatic efforts to end the blockade, not only would the EU and others be complicit in an ever more serious humanitarian crisis, but genocide could once again darken the skies of Europe—emboldening autocrats and dictators around the world.

George Meneshian, a former soldier in the Greek army, is a Greek/Armenian international-relations and security expert specialising in the middle east and the Caucasus. He is a researcher at the Washington Institute for Defence and Security and the Institute of International Relations in Athens.

Brentwood Intersection Dedicated as Republic of Artsakh Square

Sept 1 2023

A Brentwood intersection was dedicated Thursday as Republic of Artsakh Square in an effort to raise awareness of the Azerbaijan blockade of Artsakh and its impacts.

The City Council voted in May to designate the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Granville Avenue as Republic of Artsakh Square in honor of the embattled region that has great meaning for Southern California’s vast Armenian community.

Azerbaijan’s Los Angeles consulate is located at the intersection..

“Azerbaijan’s dictator has explicitly threatened genocide and called for the expulsion of all Armenians from territories he claims, once again threatening the annihilation of the Armenian people in their ancient homeland,” City Council President Paul Krekorian said in a statement when the council approved the designation of the intersection.

A Brentwood intersection was dedicated Thursday as Republic of Artsakh Square in an effort to raise awareness of the Azerbaijan blockade of Artsakh and its impacts.

The City Council voted in May to designate the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Granville Avenue as Republic of Artsakh Square in honor of the embattled region that has great meaning for Southern California’s vast Armenian community.

Azerbaijan’s Los Angeles consulate is located at the intersection..

“Azerbaijan’s dictator has explicitly threatened genocide and called for the expulsion of all Armenians from territories he claims, once again threatening the annihilation of the Armenian people in their ancient homeland,” City Council President Paul Krekorian said in a statement when the council approved the designation of the intersection.

Azerbaijan Consul General Ramil Gurbanov issued a statement Thursday expressing his “deep concern regarding the decision of the Los Angeles City Council to name the intersection of Wilshire and Granville streets as “republic of artsakh square” and unveiling of street signs. This provocative act goes against international law, the spirit of peace, and confidence-building in the region and undermines the efforts of international diplomacy.”

AW: Arayik Harutyunyan resigns as president of Artsakh

Arayik Harutyunyan

Arayik Harutyunyan has announced his decision to resign as the president of the Republic of Artsakh. 

Harutyunyan said the global “unstable geopolitical situation” and “Artsakh’s internal political and social environments” require flexibility and a change in approach in governance. “A change in the primary actors is needed in Artsakh, starting with me,” Harutyunyan said in a message posted on Facebook on August 31.

“My background and Azerbaijan’s attitude towards it are artificially creating a number of conditions generating significant problems with regard to our further steps and flexible policy. Besides, the defeat in the war and the resulting difficulties that emerged in the country reduced trust in the authorities and especially the president, which represents a very serious obstacle to further good governance,” Harutyunyan said.

Harutyunyan said he will present his official resignation to the Artsakh National Assembly on September 1. Artsakh State Minister Gurgen Nersisyan also resigned, and Secretary of the Security Council Samvel Sergey Shahramanyan has been appointed to replace him. 

Harutyunyan assumed the presidency in May of 2020. He served as president of Artsakh during the 44-day war waged by Azerbaijan in the fall of 2020, which resulted in Armenia’s defeat and the loss of the seven districts adjacent to Artsakh as well as a large part of Artsakh itself.

Rumors of Harutyunyan’s resignation had already been circulating in Armenian and Artsakh media. He recently enacted a constitutional amendment that would give the National Assembly the power to elect an interim president in case of his resignation. 

The former president has also faced pressure from other local politicians to step down. His decision comes days after former Artsakh State Minister Ruben Vardanyan demanded his resignation.

In a Facebook address on August 19, Vardanyan said that Harutyunyan had promised to resign by the start of that week and several times previously. “Some of the eight people present at that meeting did not believe your word. Another part said, ‘Maybe he is telling the truth this time,’” Vardanyan said

Vardanyan’s video address came days after members of a state-controlled volunteer militia entered the Artsakh parliament in a show of support for Harutyunyan on August 16. They demanded a meeting with the head of the Artsakh parliament Davit Ishkhanyan and other parliamentarians, which did not take place. 

The militia was created during the 2020 war. It is made up of civilian volunteers and is under the control of the Artsakh Defense Ministry. The head of the militia Karen Matevosyan said that the militia was created to save Artsakh from “elimination” and did not intervene in domestic politics.

At the time, Ishkhanyan called for “vigilance and restraint.” “Steps taken by some people who have appeared on public platforms under the guise of false unification calls aimed at destroying the foundations of our statehood are unacceptable,” Ishkhanyan said in a statement, without specifying who he was referring to. 

Ishkhanyan, a member of the ARF Bureau and opposition parliamentarian, was elected the speaker of the Artsakh National Assembly in a secret ballot on August 7. He was nominated by the “Free Motherland-United Civic Alliance” ruling coalition led by Harutyunyan. 

Harutyunyan’s resignation comes nearly nine months into a devastating blockade imposed on Artsakh by Azerbaijan. Supplies of food, medicine and other basic necessities have dwindled, and international organizations and human rights groups have warned of a humanitarian crisis. 

Political analyst Tigran Grigoryan said that intense internal political developments have been unfolding in Artsakh over the past months against the backdrop of the blockade. He argued that different groups have emerged with diverging approaches to how to end the blockade and pursue negotiations with Azerbaijan, each of which have been vying for power. In an op-ed for CivilNet, Grigoryan argued that Vardanyan has united the opposition factions in the Artsakh parliament and the former presidents of Artsakh under one of these poles, with a differing stance on how to end the blockade than Harutyunyan.

Both the ruling leadership and opposition in Artsakh have been increasingly critical of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s administration since the 2020 Artsakh War, especially PM Pashinyan’s announcement that he is ready to recognize Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan.

Lillian Avedian is the assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly. She reports on international women's rights, South Caucasus politics, and diasporic identity. Her writing has also been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Democracy in Exile, and Girls on Key Press. She holds master's degrees in journalism and Near Eastern studies from New York University.

Azerbaijani media report arrest of three Armenians in Lachin Corridor


YEREVAN, AUGUST 28, ARMENPRESS. Three Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh were arrested on Monday at the illegal Azerbaijani checkpoint in Lachin Corridor, according to Azerbaijani media reports.

According to the Azerbaijani media reports, the arrested Armenians are football players of the Martuni Avo club who have been wanted by Azerbaijani law enforcement agencies since 2021 for allegedly “dishonoring” the Azerbaijani flag. They face a 10-day jail term.

So far, the Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) InfoCenter has reported the kidnapping by Azerbaijan of only one person, a 22-year-old student who was traveling to Armenia to continue his education. Another student was being interrogated by the Azeri border guards when the news on the kidnapping was reported, according to Tigran Petrosyan, the head of the anti-crisis council under the Artsakh President.

Bundestag member Till Mansmann calls for German government’s pressure on Azerbaijan


YEREVAN, AUGUST 28, ARMENPRESS. Member of the German Bundestag Till Mansmann has called on the German federal government to increase diplomatic pressure on the Azerbaijani government given the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.

In a letter addressed to German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock, the legislator described the alarming humanitarian situation and the total blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh by Azerbaijan, the German-Armenian Forum reported.

He told the German foreign minister that the 120,000 Armenians are facing a humanitarian disaster and need urgent international aid.

Mansmann, the Chairman of the German-Armenian Forum, praised the EU’s efforts for its constructive role in the extremely difficult conflict. He said that the launch of the EU mission was a good instrument and recalled that in January 2023 the European Parliament called on Azerbaijan to comply with the 9 November 2020 agreement and open the Lachin Corridor.

“The security and basic needs of the people must not become a playing card for political interests. Taking into consideration our support for Ukraine in the Russian war of aggression, we must have a clear position in this issue as well and unambiguously show that our humanism doesn’t have political or geopolitical calculations. That’s why I am asking you to increase diplomatic pressure on the Government of Azerbaijan in order for the safe and unimpeded access of urgently needed relief supplies get ensured in line with international humanitarian law. In addition, I am asking you to look into the possibility for humanitarian aid by the federal government. We can’t solve this conflict for a short-term, but we can’t allow famine to take place on the border of our continent,” Mansmann said.

Lachin Corridor, the only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia and the rest of the world, has been blocked by Azerbaijan since late 2022. The Azerbaijani blockade constitutes a gross violation of the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire agreement, which established that the 5km-wide Lachin Corridor shall be under the control of Russian peacekeepers. Furthermore, on February 22, 2023 the United Nations’ highest court – the International Court of Justice (ICJ) – ordered Azerbaijan to “take all steps at its disposal” to ensure unimpeded movement of persons, vehicles and cargo along the Lachin Corridor in both directions.  Azerbaijan has been ignoring the order ever since. The ICJ reaffirmed its order on 6 July 2023.

Azerbaijan then illegally installed a checkpoint on Lachin Corridor. The blockade has led to shortages of essential products such as food and medication. Azerbaijan has also cut off gas and power supply into Nagorno Karabakh, with officials warning that Baku seeks to commit ethnic cleansing against Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. Hospitals have suspended normal operations.

Asbarez: Australia Supports ICJ Ruling Calling for Lachin Opening

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs has voiced its support for the International Court of Justice ruling ordering Azerbaijan to “ensure unimpeded movement” along then Lachin Corridor, as the blockade of Artsakh moves into its ninth month creating an acute humanitarian organization, reported the Armenian National Committee of Australia.

The Armenian National Committee of Australia welcomed this statement, calling it “a welcome shift” in department’s narrative, which had until now preferred statements urging “both sides to de-escalate tensions and to ensure freedom and security along the corridor”. 

“We support the provisional measures order issued by the International Court of Justice on 22 February 2023, which was reaffirmed by the Court on 6 July 2023. The Court ordered Azerbaijan to ‘take all measures at its disposal to ensure unimpeded movement of persons, vehicles and cargo along the Lachin Corridor in both directions,’” said Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in a letter sent to the Australian-Armenian community.

The ANC-AU welcomed the statement from DFAT on behalf of Senator Wong, and now expects the Foreign Minister and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to publicly echo this in all possible settings. 

Australia now joins the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom, the European Parliament and many other nations, and prominent non-governmental organisations in supporting the International Court of Justice’s provisional measures. 

“For the second time now, an Australian Government has recognized Azerbaijan’s belligerent actions, first in November 2022 acknowledging Azerbaijan as the responsible party for a specific series of crimes against Armenian prisoners of war and the desecration of Armenian cultural and religious sites, and now as the instigator of an illegal blockade in violation of international law,” said ANC-AU Executive Director, Michael Kolokossian.

“We look forward to this positive shift in Australia’s position being echoed in all bilateral and multilateral international channels by both Prime Minister Albanese and Foreign Affairs Minister Wong until the genocidal blockade is lifted.”

More than 2,000 Armenian-Australians signed an Australian Parliamentary petition over the past month, calling for the Federal Government’s support to end Artsakh’s blockade, which was presented to the House of Representatives who passed it on to Foreign Minister Wong before the release of the above letters.

“The Armenian National Committee of Australia extends its warm gratitude to all community members who passionately advocated in support of Artsakh, the Australian civil society organisations who wrote to the Foreign Minister, and state and federal parliamentarians who have signed the Statement of Support for the people of Artsakh calling on this important shift in Canberra’s policy. Through our collective and united efforts, we have secured this victory,” Kolokossian added.

Central Bank issues collector coin dedicated to 30th anniversary of national currency


YEREVAN, AUGUST 23, ARMENPRESS. On , the Central Bank of Armenia introduced the “30 Years of National Currency” silver collector coin into circulation.

The collector coin is dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the national currency, the Central Bank said in a press release.

The national currency of the Republic of Armenia, the dram, is one of the symbols of independent statehood. The dram was put into circulation on November 22, 1993. During 30 years of the dram existence, several series of circulating banknotes and coins, as well as other types of currency of the collectors’ interest – circulating commemorative coins, collector banknotes, collector and investment coins – have been issued.

The first collector coin of the Republic of Armenia was issued in 1994. Since then, the Central Bank of the Republic of Armenia has issued more than 440 names of collector coins made of gold, silver and copper-nickel, dedicated to prominent Armenians and landmark historical and cultural events. Banknotes and coins of the Republic of Armenia are produced with the use of state-of-the-art technologies offered by security printing and mintage, and meet modern international standards of quality and security.

The consistent and purposive work on improving the quality of the banknotes and coins of the Republic of Armenia has brought in many awards and high appreciation at prestigious international numismatic contests.