The Russian Foreign Ministry renewed its calls for the conflicting sides to “strictly comply” with the 2020 ceasefire agreement that placed the Lachin corridor under the control of Russian peacekeepers and committed Azerbaijan to guaranteeing safe passage through it. But it again stopped short of explicitly urging Baku to unblock the highway.
“We express concern about the absence of progress in restoring the full functioning of the Lachin corridor for the movement of citizens, vehicles and goods in both directions in accordance with the Statement of the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia dated November 9, 2020,” the ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said in a statement.
The Russian Defense Ministry has regularly reported in recent weeks that its peacekeeping contingent is negotiating with the sides to try to end the blockade which is causing growing shortages of food, medicine and other basic goods in Karabakh. No details of those negotiations have been made public.
“We hope that the parties will come to agreements concerning the development of ore deposits in the region,” said Zakharova.
Azerbaijani protesters who blocked a section of the corridor on December 12 are demanding that Baku be allowed to inspect “illegal” ore mines in Karabakh and assess their environmental impact. The authorities in Yerevan and Stepanakert have condemned their actions as a gross violation of the 2020 accord that stopped a six-week Armenian-Azerbaijani war in Karabakh.
The Karabakh government announced on Wednesday that production operations at Karabakh’s sole functioning copper and molybdenum mine will be suspended pending an “international ecological examination” requested by it. Baku has still not publicly reacted to the move.
Ruben Vardanyan, the Karabakh premier, said on Friday that the blockade is not only causing local residents severe hardship but also taking a heavy toll on Karabakh’s economy.
“Despite these difficulties, we are going to move forward,” Vardanyan told officials in Stepanakert. “We have no other option.”