Azerbaijan cuts off the path to retreat

Baku is doing everything possible to install a checkpoint in Karabakh

A new crisis has arisen in Karabakh, connected with the Lachin corridor, or rather, with a dirt road, which could serve as an alternative to it. Formally, this territory belongs to the zone of responsibility of Russian peacekeepers, however, when the Armenian forces began to actively use it, the Azerbaijanis set up a checkpoint there. Now the Azerbaijani authorities are talking more and more insistently about the need for a full-fledged checkpoint at the entrance to the region.

Last weekend, the Azerbaijani military, as noted in the bulletin of the Russian peacekeeping mission, “started to equip the post with engineering equipment” on the road between the villages of Khalfali and Turshsu. “It is noted that the command of the Russian peacekeepers is taking measures aimed at preventing the escalation of the crisis situation and preventing mutual provocations by the warring parties,” the peacekeepers added. b”), taking measures to stop engineering work and withdraw units of the national armed forces to their previously occupied positions.

Meanwhile, a few hours before the publication of the bulletin of Russian peacekeepers, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry stated that “in recent days, the transportation of manpower, ammunition, mines, as well as other military equipment from Armenia, intended for the armed forces of Armenia, located in the territories of the temporary deployment of the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Azerbaijan” and therefore the military “implemented appropriate control measures”.

The route, on which the Azerbaijani checkpoint has now appeared, until recently did not appear at all in the media and official statements, because it was practically not used. This dirt road, which passes through several lifeless mountain villages, was simply not needed, as long as it was possible to travel to Stepanakert along the Lachin corridor, where a high-quality asphalt highway was laid.

When Azerbaijani environmental activists blocked the traffic, the need for an alternative route increased greatly, but they began to use it only closer to spring, when the snow melted.

The Azerbaijanis noticed this almost immediately, and already on March 5 it led to an armed incident: the Azerbaijani military fired on a UAZ with employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR).

After that, Baku claimed that Russian peacekeepers began to accompany the Armenian military on this road, and the Armenians themselves drove construction equipment there in order to at least slightly level the ground and make the route accessible not only for off-road vehicles.

They do not hide their further goals in Baku – they are convinced there that all control must be taken into their own hands.

“Armenia’s recent provocations show that in order to prevent illegal activities in the sovereign territories of Azerbaijan, it is necessary to establish a border checkpoint between Azerbaijan and Armenia at the end point of the Lachin road,” the country’s Foreign Ministry said in a March 25 statement.

“The appearance of the checkpoint is inevitable. The only question is the timing, – Azerbaijani political scientist Ilgar Velizade told Kommersant. – This will require certain work on arranging the border and determining the persons who will be able to cross it. But I think it will be about the inhabitants of the region and their relatives.” At the same time, the Azerbaijani authorities are unlikely to restore confidence in Russian peacekeepers, according to the expert. “We can say that we have parity: the peacekeepers ignore our concerns, and we ignore the statements of the peacekeepers. In the end, we use these contradictions as an argument not to extend their work for another five years,” Mr. Velizade believes. “But this will not affect relations with Russia as a whole. You can attribute everything to the ineffectiveness of a particular mission.”

In turn, the director of the Yerevan Caucasus Institute, Alexander Iskandaryan, is convinced that the role of Russian peacekeepers in Karabakh will remain significant, at least for the Armenian side. “The meaning of the presence of Russian peacekeepers is not only to ensure unhindered movement along the Lachin corridor. The main point is to ensure the physical survival of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh,” Mr. Iskandaryan told Kommersant. “If there are no peacekeepers, then Artsakh (the Armenian name for Nagorno-Karabakh is Kommersant) will be subjected to ethnic cleansing. Just as it happened in those areas that Azerbaijan managed to capture as a result of the war, these are Hadrut, Lachin and so on.” According to Mr. Iskandaryan, Yerevan is still waiting for Moscow to unblock the Lachin corridor, but this scenario does not look realistic now.

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