The recent tensions in the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh, particularly in the Askeran region, are accompanied by a number of manifestations of Azerbaijani propaganda, both at the state level and by social network users.
These manipulations mainly refer to the issues of gas supply to Nagorno Karabakh and “withdrawal of Armenian troops” from Nagorno Karabakh.
The false commitment to “withdraw troops”
The Azerbaijani authorities and a number of Azerbaijani social media users explain the recent tensions by the circumstance that Armenia is not fulfilling Clause 4 of the statement signed on November 9, 2020, according to which the Armenian troops must be withdrawn from Nagorno Karabakh.
However, this claim manipulates the provisions of the November 9 statement. The clause about the withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from Nagorno Karabakh refers to the regions surrounding the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region, which as of November 9, 2020 were still under Armenian control.
After the war, in September 2021, in his speech at the UN General Assembly, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev reaffirmed this, noting that under the ceasefire agreement, Armenian forces had been withdrawn from Aghdam (Akna), Lachin (Kashatagh) and Kelbajar (Karvachar) regions. The Armenian troops left the territory of Zangelan and Kubatlu later, based on a verbal agreement, as claimed by Prime Minister Pashinyan. And at the end of February this year, Aliyev demanded the withdrawal of Armenian troops, according to the ceasefire agreement, apparently referring to the units of the Nagorno Karabakh Defense Army, the disbandment of which is not mentioned in the November 9 document.
Moreover, the authorities of Nagorno Karabakh have repeatedly denied the allegations that the Nagorno Karabakh Defense Army will be disbanded.
It is noteworthy that in advancing this claim, Azerbaijani propaganda also uses language manipulation, presenting the expressions in Russian and English, namely, “Armenian Armed Forces” as “Armed Forces of Armenian nationality”, although in the context of the international document, we should understand it as “Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia”.
The gas supply in Nagorno Karabakh was disrupted for the first time on the night of March 8-9 as a result of an alleged accident. After forbidding the Armenian side to approach the site for about 10 days, the Azerbaijani side finally resumed gas supply on the evening of March 18. On March 21, the gas supply was cut off again. This time, according to the Armenian side, Azerbaijan has installed a valve on the gas pipeline.
In this context, there are discussions in the Azerbaijani domain of social networks that Nagorno Karabakh received gas from Azerbaijan, free of charge, and that the Nagorno Karabakh authorities should contact the Azerbaijani “Azergaz” to solve the gas supply issue.
However, such allegations are the result of not being informed or being misinformed. The gas supply to Nagorno Karabakh is provided by a gas pipeline from Armenia, and a part of the gas pipeline came under the control of Azerbaijan after the war. The gas pipeline was damaged near the city of Shushi.
Ararat Mirzoyan’s statement that the area of the gas accident is “in the zone of responsibility of the Russian peacekeepers” also gave rise to manipulations.
Mirzoyan stated that for this reason the Armenian authorities first of all keep in touch with the Russian side, also turning to the international community. The Azerbaijani propaganda used this formulation to prove that the “problem” of gas supply is connected with the Armenian and Russian sides. Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani authorities themselves admitted that the damaged part of the gas pipeline was in the area under their control, but called what happened a technical issue.
Besides, in his speech, Mirzoyan took note of the fact that the territory of Nagorno Karabakh is under the responsibility of the Russian peacekeeping mission, although the wording of the speech was confusing and might not have been understood by many.
During the recent tensions, manipulations and fake information have been spread in the Armenian-language domain of social networks as well.
One example is a video shared by a (probably fake) Facebook user from a speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which, according to the author, “a few days ago” Putin threatened Aliyev, saying that “the alternative to violating the provisions of the trilateral statement is war”. The post has been shared about 8000 times.
However, the video is from a meeting on November 20, 2020, where Putin responded to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s observation that there were “tendencies” of not fulfilling the provisions of the trilateral statement and questioning the peacekeepers’ mission in Nagorno Karabakh.