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Azerbaijani Activists Continue to Call for End to Illegal Mining in Karabakh Region

By Gunay Hajiyeva January 2, 2023

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The visit of the representatives of Azerbaijan to the deposits was derailed in the wake of illegal intervention by ethnic Armenians living in certain parts of Azerbaijan's Karabakh region. This led civil society members and volunteers of Azerbaijan to protest along the Lachin-Khankendi road on December 12. / Courtesy

Azerbaijani ecological activists, civil society members and volunteers on the Khankendi-Lachin road passing near the city of Shusha carried on with protests for a third week as they demanded an end to ecological crimes in the country's Karabakh region.

The rally continued in the same spirit on Monday night with the protesters chanting their demands in Azerbaijani, Russian and English to call for immediate measures to stop illegal mining activities in the Karabakh region.

In the meantime, the Khankendi-Lachin roads remain open to humanitarian traffic despite the mass gathering. On Monday morning and afternoon, supply vehicles of the temporary Russian peacekeeping mission deployed in the region moved safely and freely from Khankendi to Lachin with no interruption from the protesters. Since December 31, more than ten vehicles of peacekeepers have been seen moving in both directions.

On December 28, a convoy of ambulances of the International Red Cross Committee evacuated three patients of Armenian origin from Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region to Armenia. The convoy returned on the same day to the Karabakh region carrying medicines and medical supplies for the hospital in Khankendi.

Since December 3, 2022, a group of experts from Azerbaijan’s Economy Ministry and Ecology and Natural Resources Ministry, and the State Property Service under the Ministry of Economy and AzerGold Company, held negotiations with the command of the peacekeeping contingent on the illegal exploitation of mineral deposits, as well as on environmental and other secondary consequences in the Azerbaijani territories under its temporary monitoring. As a result of consecutive meetings on December 3 and 4, the two sides agreed to ecological monitoring by the Azerbaijani experts at the Gizilbulag gold and Demirli copper-molybdenum deposits.

However, on December 10, the visit of the representatives of Azerbaijan to the deposits was derailed in the wake of illegal intervention by ethnic Armenians living in certain parts of Azerbaijan's Karabakh region. Back then, the Russian peacekeepers did not take preventive measures to facilitate the previously agreed visit of the Azerbaijani experts.

This led civil society members and volunteers to protest along the Lachin-Khankendi road on December 12.

Armenian authorities and media outlets interpreted the peaceful protest as an attempt to block the road that connects Armenia with the partial Armenian population in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. However, the Azerbaijani government and media have come forth with evidence proving that the Lachin-Khankendi road is used freely by the Russian peacekeepers for humanitarian cargo shipments, as well as for ambulances and civilians, including the family members of the peacekeepers. The activists even provided a hotline number to address the appeals of the Armenian citizens of Azerbaijan residing in the Karabakh region.

The armed Russian peacekeeping contingent had earlier blocked the Lachin road amidst the protests in an attempt to prevent protesters and journalists from gathering there.

The Azerbaijani authorities have been calling for more efficient control over the Lachin highway by the Russian peacekeeping contingent. The demands gained momentum after reports surfaced about the illegal transportation of minerals from the Azerbaijani territories temporarily monitored by the peacekeepers to Armenia via the Lachin road. Baku-based Caliber.Az news agency reported on November 30 that eight Kamaz trucks accompanied by a Nissan Patrol SUV with an Armenian license number 731 - AB - 61 ER, made their way from the Khankendi city of Azerbaijan to Armenia between November 10 and November 14. Moreover, on November 16-18, identical vehicles were seen along the Lachin road from Armenia to Khankendi.

According to operational data, raw materials extracted at the gold mines near the village of Gulyatagh of the former Aghdara (current Tartar) region of Azerbaijan, located in the zone of temporary responsibility of the Russian peacekeepers, have been transported on these Kamaz trucks. The materials were moved by the Base Metals company, a subsidiary of Vallex Group Company based in Switzerland, engaged in the looting of precious metals in Kalbajar, Zangilan, and Aghdara during their occupation by Armenia and currently in the area where Russian peacekeepers are stationed.

President Ilham Aliyev said the developments on Lachin road are crystal-clear legitimate rights of Azerbaijanis as their natural resources are being exploited and shipped out.

“Those plundering our natural resources are criminals according to any international legal norm. This is our territory recognized by the international community, and we have a legitimate demand for our public representatives, first of all, representatives of state bodies, to be able to conduct monitoring there,” President Aliyev said on December 24, 2022.

“They should see what is going on there and demand that all illegal activity be stopped. This is our legitimate demand. However, this situation is being presented in a completely distorted manner. There are lies again, there is slander again, and we all know who is behind that. Let me say again that the state of Armenia is not in the foreground here. But this will not deter us. We have repeatedly proven this – the Second Karabakh War and the subsequent two years have demonstrated that. No one can influence us.”