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Armenian Government, Opposition Wrangle Over Karabakh Blockade


Armenia - Karabakh flags are placed on the seats of opposition members of the Armenian parliament, Yerevan, December 16, 2022.

The Armenian authorities rejected on Tuesday opposition claims that they are not doing enough to unblock the sole road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia, saying that it is controlled by Russian peacekeepers.

Armen Grigorian, the secretary of Armenia’s Security Council, insisted that Yerevan is “using all tools at its disposal” to end the more than weeklong road blockade imposed by Azerbaijan. He stressed at the same time that the peacekeepers stationed in Karabakh are supposed to ensure free movement through the Lachin corridor in line with the Russian-brokered ceasefire that ended the 2020 Armenian-Azerbaijani war.

“Responsibility for the Lachin corridor was handed over to the Russian Federation, and I also want to hear questions from the opposition regarding this as well,” Grigorian said during a session of the parliament.

Ruben Rubinian, a deputy parliament speaker representing the ruling Civil Contract party, likewise dismissed opposition allegations that Yerevan washed its hands of Karabakh’s ethnic population increasingly suffering from the blockade.

“Stop saying that the government is primarily responsible, that the government is trying to put the responsibility on others,” Rubinian told opposition parliamentarians.

“It’s your government that surrendered the alternative Lachin road,” countered Artsvik Minasian of the opposition Hayastan alliance. “It’s your government that pledged to be the guarantor of Artsakh’s security. Now you are talking nonsense here, telling us to demand [action] from the Russians.”

“We must demand that from the Russians as well, but you are the ones that are first and foremost responsible,” said Minasian.

Other pro-government lawmakers last week openly blamed Russia for the Azerbaijani blockade. One of them claimed that Moscow ordered the peacekeepers not to prevent or end the blockade in an effort to clinch geopolitical concessions from Yerevan.

Arayik Harutiunian, the Karabakh president, defended the peacekeepers afterwards. He praised their “conscious steps to alleviate the humanitarian problems of our people.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry rejected “unfounded accusations and provocative actions against the Russian peacekeepers” when it called for the reopening of the vital road on December 15.

A section of the road was blocked on December 12 by groups of Azerbaijanis demanding that Baku be allowed to inspect “illegal” mining operations in Karabakh. The authorities in Stepanakert and Yerevan say that the Azerbaijani government organized the blockade as part of its efforts to “cleanse” Karabakh of its ethnic Armenian residents.

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