“We are concerned about the blocking of the Lachin corridor, it is caused by disagreements between the parties over the development of ore deposits [in Karabakh,]” Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said in what was Moscow’s first official reaction to the road closure.
“The Russian Defense Ministry and the Russian peacekeeping contingent have been actively working all these days to de-escalate the situation,” she told a news briefing. “We expect the restoration of a full-fledged transport link in the very near future.”
Zakharova said all conflicting sides must “strictly” comply with a Russian-brokered agreement that stopped the 2020 Armenian-Azerbaijani war over Karabakh. The ceasefire agreement placed the Lachin corridor under the control of Russian peacekeeping forces and committed Azerbaijan to guaranteeing safe passage through it.
“It is unacceptable to create problems for the life of the civilian population,” Zakharova added in a remark clearly addressed to Azerbaijan.
Still, she stopped short of explicitly criticizing Baku, unlike the United States and the European Union. The Western powers have also expressed serious concern over the fact that natural gas supplies to Karabakh were blocked by Baku on Tuesday.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian thanked them for their reaction when he spoke during a weekly cabinet meeting in Yerevan earlier on Thursday.
“I have to note in this regard that the silence of a number of friendly countries is strange to say the least,” he said in an apparent jibe at Russia.
On Wednesday, several lawmakers representing Pashinian’s Civil Contract party criticized the Russian peacekeepers for failing to stop a large group of Azerbaijanis from blocking the corridor on Monday. One of them claimed that Moscow wants to “draw Armenia into a war with Azerbaijan.”
Zakharova rejected “unfounded accusations and provocative actions against the Russian peacekeepers.”
The Russian official gave no details of the peacekeepers’ reported negotiations with the Azerbaijani side. A senior Karabakh official insisted on Wednesday that Stepanakert is not involved in those talks.
Pashinian also reiterated Yerevan’s strong condemnation of the road blockade, saying that the Azerbaijani side has created a “humanitarian crisis” in Karabakh and turned its 120,000 ethnic Armenian residents into “hostages.”
“Azerbaijan continuously implements a policy of ‘Nagorno-Karabakh without Armenians’ and we must do everything to ensure that this policy receives proper international recognition,” he said.