Pashinian charged that both Baku and Moscow are not complying with the 2020 ceasefire agreement that placed the Lachin corridor under the control of Russian peacekeeping forces and committed the Azerbaijani side to guaranteeing free and safe traffic through it.
“De facto, it means that the commitment made through the tripartite [ceasefire] declaration, namely to keep the Lachin corridor under control, is also not fulfilled by Russia’s peacekeeping contingent,” he said at a cabinet meeting in Yerevan.
“Of course, such a thing is happening as a consequence of Azerbaijan’s illegal actions, but this doesn’t change the situation seeing as the key purpose of the Russian peacekeeping contingent is … to prevent such illegalities and to control the Lachin corridor,” added Pashinian.
Moscow was quick to reject Pashinian’s criticism, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying that the Russian peacekeepers have been acting “solely in accordance with the letter and spirit” of the Russian-brokered ceasefire deal.
“Russian peacekeepers are doing everything possible to ensure order and tranquility in the territories where they work,” Peskov said, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.
The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, likewise insisted that the peacekeepers deployed in Karabakh are “accomplishing their mission.”
“For those who don’t know, I would like to remind that there have been several escalations and problems before, and the parties blamed each other, and it was the Russian peacekeepers that did everything to stabilize the situation and they succeeded. Therefore, such an attitude towards our peacekeepers cannot be accepted,” Zakharova told reporters.
Two members of Armenia’s parliament representing Pashinian’s party claimed last week that Moscow ordered the peacekeepers not to prevent or end the Azerbaijan blockade in an effort to clinch geopolitical concessions from Yerevan. Arayik Harutiunian, the Karabakh president, defended the peacekeepers afterwards and praised their “conscious steps to alleviate the humanitarian problems of our people.”
The vital highway was blocked on December 12 by large groups of Azerbaijanis demanding that their government be allowed to inspect “illegal” mining operations in Karabakh. Baku backs their demands and claims that the protesters did not halt traffic through the road.
A short video circulated on social media late on Wednesday showed that the Azerbaijanis, among them men wearing balaclavas, did not allow a convoy of Russian military trucks to pass through the corridor despite repeated appeals from a Russian officer.
Moscow has repeatedly called for the reopening of the road. In daily statements issued over the past week, the Russian Defense Ministry said that its peacekeepers have been negotiating with the conflicting sides to try to end the blockade.
The Armenian government and Karabakh’s leadership maintain that Baku organized the blockade as part of its efforts to drive the Karabakh Armenians out of their homes.