Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian charged on Thursday that the peacekeepers have become a “silent witness” to Baku’s efforts to “depopulate” Karabakh through the blockade. He said Moscow should come up with a plan to unblock the corridor or seek a larger and multinational peacekeeping mission in Karabakh. Russian officials rejected the criticism.
Davit Babayan, Karabakh’s acting foreign minister, argued that the peacekeepers lack an international mandate to forcibly disperse Azerbaijani protesters who halted traffic through the vital highway on December 12. They need to secure “appropriate authorization from the United Nations,” he said.
“The problem is not the Russians,” Babayan told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service in Yerevan. “We need to realize this. The problem is Azerbaijan and Turkey.”
“Hitting the Russian peacekeepers at this point means strangling Artsakh (Karabakh),” he said. “Who is to blame for all this? The Russians? Why are you following this line?”
Representatives of major Karabakh parties were even more critical of Pashinian’s stance.
“Let him not shift his responsibility onto others,” said Artur Mosiyan, a leader of the local branch of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun). “He is primarily to blame for this whole thing. Pashinian simply doesn’t miss an opportunity to make an anti-Russian statement without thinking whether it is good or bad for Karabakh.”
Davit Galstian of the opposition Justice party said Pashinian’s government itself should do more to help the Karabakh Armenians. He dismissed the Armenian government’s decision on Thursday to allocate 4 billion drams ($10 million) in emergency aid to Karabakh.
“Even if you bring today 4 billion drams to Artsakh the shops here will still have no basic foodstuffs,” said Galstian.
Some members of Armenia’s parliament representing Pashinian’s party claimed earlier this month that Moscow is using the Azerbaijani blockade to try to clinch geopolitical concessions from Yerevan. Arayik Harutiunian, the Karabakh president, afterwards defended the peacekeepers and praised their “conscious steps to alleviate the humanitarian problems of our people.”