The Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan accused Armenia of expanding landmine threats along the Lachin road and within settlements in the Karabakh region through illegal usage of the humanitarian route.
The ministry said in a statement on Wednesday Armenia was still planting landmines in Azerbaijani territories and committed systematic human rights violations in the Lachin road.
According to the ministry, newly surfaced evidence shows Armenia's armed forces are continuing to plant landmines and booby-traps in civilian homes located in areas they were required to leave under the terms of the tripartite statement of November 10, 2020.
“This includes landmines manufactured by Armenia in 2021 that were transported into Azerbaijan through the Lachin road, in direct violation of the Trilateral Statement,” the ministry said.
“Armenia’s “scorched earth” destruction of houses, combined with its deliberate and specific targeting of civilian properties with explosive devices, continues to prevent [Azerbaijani] displaced families and communities from returning to their former homes and land over thirty years since they were forced to flee as a result of Armenia’s illegal occupation," the ministry added.
The new Lachin road was built and put into operation by Azerbaijan in August of this year to replace the traditional Lachin route, which connects Armenia with the Karabakh (Garabagh) region of Azerbaijan. The highway is designed for only humanitarian purposes.
However, various reports have surfaced of illegal shipments and visitors passing through the Lachin highway, which are meant to be prevented by the Russian peacekeepers.
Earlier this month, 27 Iranian citizens were reported to have illegally traveled to the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan in two separate groups through the Lachin highway. Russian peacekeeping commander General Volkov claimed that the individuals in question were construction workers. According to data reported by Azerbaijani mass media, travelers from Iran were saboteurs tasked with conducting training for the separatists in certain parts of the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijani media cited an unnamed source in early November as saying that the Russian peacekeepers temporarily deployed in some parts of Azerbaijan's Karabakh region are supplying weapons to the Armenian separatists through the Lachin road.
Back then, the Baku-based Caliber.Az news service reported that the transfer of weapons has been disguised as “peacekeeping humanitarian aid." The list of the arms transferred to the zone of temporary responsibility of the Russian peacekeeping mission included anti-personnel mines, anti-tank mines, automatic small arms, including easel machine guns, sniper rifles, 122mm mortars, ATGM (anti-tank guided missile) “Fagot” (10 units), ATGM “Cornet” (10 units), grenade launchers, portable communication devices, and ammunition.
The peacekeepers have reportedly delivered weapons and ammunition from the Russian 102nd military base located in the city of Gyumri, Armenia, via the new highway connecting Armenia to Azerbaijan's Karabakh region. In addition, some types of weapons handed over to the Armenian separatists were reserved from Iran and Syria.
Following the 44-day war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the Russian peacekeeping contingent was deployed to certain parts of Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region partially populated by ethnic Armenians. The contingent of 1,960 Russian peacekeepers is considered to safeguard peace in the region.
Later in November, the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry discovered a large minefield laid by illegal Armenian armed detachments in the Lachin district. A total of 350 PMN-E anti-personnel mines manufactured in Armenia in 2021 were unearthed and defused, the ministry confirmed back then. On November 23, the commander of the Russian Peacekeeping Mission temporarily deployed in the region and the heads of the Turkish and Russian contingents of the joint Turkish-Russian Monitoring Center were invited by the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry to observe the minefields and inspect landmines. The military attachés of several foreign states and journalists accredited in Azerbaijan also visited the sight.
Since August of this year, at least 2,728 landmines with an Armenian production date of 2021 were detected and neutralized, out of which were 1,119 landmines in the Kalbajar and Lachin districts along the border area with Armenia, as well as 1,609 in the territory of the Karabakh Economic Region.
Since the end of the 44-day war between Azerbaijan and Armenia in 2020, nearly 280 Azerbaijani citizens have become victims of mine explosions, while 46 people were killed by landmines, including 35 civilians, of which 3 were journalists.