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Russian Peacekeepers, IRC Use Lachin Road Freely for Humanitarian Purposes

By Nigar Bayramli January 10, 2023

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The unhindered use of the road for humanitarian purposes is taking place amidst claims by the Armenians living in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan about an alleged “blockage” on the Lachin-Khankendi road. However, no fact has so far surfaced to prove those claims / Courtesy

A total of 20 humanitarian vehicles used the Lachin-Khankendi road on Tuesday without any obstacle amid the ongoing protest of the Azerbaijani eco-activists on the road.

Eighteen supply and passenger vehicles of the temporary Russian peacekeeping mission, as well as two cars belonging to the International Red Cross (IRC) were seen moving in both directions along the road as of Tuesday afternoon, according to Baku-based Report news service. The Azerbaijani protesters on the site did not hinder the humanitarian transport, creating the necessary conditions for their safe and free passage.

Since January 1, nearly 150 vehicles of the Russian peacekeepers and ICR missions have used the Lachin-Khankendi road for humanitarian transportation, including for the deliveries of food and medicines.

Although the ethnic Armenians living in Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region have been claiming about an alleged “blockage” on the Lachin-Khankendi road, more than 400 humanitarian transport movements have been recorded along the road since December 12, 2022, when Azerbaijani eco-activists, civil society members, and volunteers gathered on the road to protest Armenia’s illegal mining in the Azerbaijani territories.

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 Russian 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.

Armenia's 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 Permanent Mission of Azerbaijan to NATO has recently announced that the Lachin road is no longer available for Armenia’s illegal activities, including plundering natural resources, and transfer of weapons and military personnel and remains open only for humanitarian purposes.

“The Lachin road is fully open for humanitarian purposes in line with Trilateral Statement [from November 10, 2020]. Armenia’s allegations on the ‘blockade’ are groundless and could easily be dismantled by hundreds of available video footage,” the Mission said last week on Twitter.

“Lachin road is open to Armenian residents and can be used according to the Trilateral Statement. Armenia and certain puppets deliberately prevent civilians from using it to build a false narrative of ‘blockade’. Again, the facts are stubborn things.”

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 temporarily stationed.

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