After the attack of Azerbaijani forces in Artsakh at the beginning of August simultaneously in two directions, the official representatives of Stepanakert and Yerevan announced that on August 25 the road connecting Armenia to Artsakh including the city of Berdzor and the village of Aghavno will come under the control of Azerbaijan.
On August 5, the Minister of Territorial Administration of the Republic of Artsakh, Hayk Khanumyan, told at the meeting with the residents of Aghavno that the residents of the village should leave Aghavno by August 25 – on that day the Russian peacekeepers will leave and the Azerbaijani military will enter the village.
Fact Investigation Platform summarized the developments around the Lachin Corridor, the noteworthy scenes regarding the construction of the new route and the official statements of the Armenian side.
The Armenian side met Baku’s “illegitimate demand”
On August 1, the Artsakh Defense Army reported that the Azerbaijani units “resorted to provocation by making attempts to cross the contact line which were stopped by the forces of the Defense Army units.” The tension in Artsakh continued during the next few days, as a result of which the Defense Army suffered 2 casualties and 19 wounded.
On the next day of the escalation, on August 2, the office of the President of the Republic of Artsakh reported that Baku, through the peacekeeping troops stationed in Artsakh, demanded to arrange the Artsakh-Armenia traffic on a new route.
On August 3, the Secretary of the Security Council of Armenia, Armen Grigoryan, told “Armenpress” that Azerbaijan’s “demand to arrange the traffic connecting Artsakh to Armenia by a different route instead of the Lachin Corridor is not legitimate“.
The following day, at the government session, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, referring to the current escalation in Artsakh, announced that Azerbaijan “uses the issue of the new route of the Lachin Corridor as an excuse, as if it has completed the construction of the new route of the Lachin Corridor, and therefore, a number of sections of the existing corridor should be handed over to its control.”
Pashinyan emphasized that at the moment there is no plan approved by Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in a tripartite format, and that the Armenian side has proposed to approve a plan in a tripartite format several times.
“Note that the statement is not just about the construction of a new road, but about the construction plan and the redeployment of peacekeeping troops which is a very complex and tripartite process. As of now, we have not agreed to any plan, because we have not been offered a draft of such a plan,” said the Prime Minister.
In fact, despite the fact that the Armenian side called Baku’s demand “illegitimate,” it was met – the corridor along the route and its adjacent settlements will come under Azerbaijani control on August 25.
The alternative road was being built by the Azerbaijani side during 1 year
2020 In the tripartite statement of November 9, it is mentioned about the construction of an alternative road to the Yerevan-Goris-Stepanakert road connecting Artsakh to Armenia. “Lachin Corridor (5 km wide) which will ensure the connection of Nagorno Karabakh with Armenia, while bypassing the city of Shushi, remains under the control of the peacekeeping troops of the Russian Federation.”
As agreed by the parties, in order to ensure the connection between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, within the next three years, a design for the construction of a new route along the Lachin Corridor will be approved after which the Russian peacekeeping troops will be redeployed to protect this route,” the statement reads. In other words, it was mentioned about presenting the design of the new route within 3 years, and not about the complete construction.
Kashatagh (Lachin) region, except for the 5 km corridor, came under Azerbaijani control on December 1, 2020. On the same day, Azerbaijani President Aliyev declared his intention to return the city of Berdzor (Lachin).
“I have said in conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin that the city of Lachin should also be returned to us. For this reason, we propose to build a new corridor, develop the route of the new corridor connecting Nagorno Karabakh to Armenia and build it. The term is also indicated here: in 3 years. However, I think we can do it sooner. After clarifying the parameters of the new corridor, the city of Lachin will also be returned to us,” Aliyev said.
According to the Azerbaijani media and community leaders of the Shushi region of Artsakh, Azerbaijan has started the construction of the road as early as July 2021. On February 4, 2021 in an interview to Radio Liberty, the heads of the Hin Shen and Mets Shen communities stated that the Azerbaijanis are building a new road right near the villages that are under the control of the Armenian forces and in the zone of responsibility of the Russian peacekeeping troops.
It is noteworthy that Azerbaijan officially announced the construction of a new road and specified concrete terms. Thus, on February 22, 2022, the Chairman of the State Agency of Motor Roads of Azerbaijan, Saleh Mammadov, announced that the 17-km section of the 28-km road has already been built. He emphasized that the alternative road will be commissioned in July, 2022. And a few months later, in April, Azerbaijani sources reported that the main part of the road had already been built. Moreover, it was already mentioned that the road would stretch 32 km instead of 28 km.
While Baku was building, the Armenian side made vague statements about the new route
The Armenian side has not made any official announcement about the works on the new route for about a year.
Moreover, during the question-and-answer session with the government in the National Assembly in September, 2021, when Azerbaijan had already started construction of the route for two months, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated that “no negotiations are underway” on this topic.
The Armenian side, represented by the Prime Minister, officially announced the draft of the new route for the first time on June 27 this year. During his online press conference, Pashinyan said that the issue of changing the route had been discussed and a preliminary agreement had been reached.
Already at the end of July, 2022, Liberty Radio station was informed by the Ministry of Territorial Administration that the construction of the road replacing the Lachin Corridor would begin in August. The new road enters Artsakh through Syunik Tegh, Kornidzor villages, Hin Shen, Mets Shen villages of Berdadzor sub-region.
Contradictory statements about the depopulation of Lachine Corridor settlements
During the June 27 press conference, Prime Minister Pashinyan also announced that “in the event of a change of route [in Lachin], the territories that are not located within the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast border will come under the control of Azerbaijan.” The areas concerned are Berdzor, Aghavno and Sus villages.
A number of the prime minister’s teammates and even the president of Artsakh made statements contradicting Pashinyan’s statement. On June 30, Araik Harutyunyan assured during a question-and-answer session with MPs in the Artsakh Parliament that the issue of depopulation of the settlements of the Lachin Corridor was not discussed, and the negotiations with Aghavno were ongoing.
“Leave that question, let’s see what possibilities there are,” the Artsakh president said.
On the same day, during a question-and-answer session with journalists in the government building, the Secretary of the RA Security Council, Armen Grigoryan, said that “we still have time to find solutions both for the road and for the residents.”
“We still have about 1.5 years, we will work with the government of Artsakh and find solutions,” said Grigoryan.
Thus, high-ranking officials of the Armenian side made a number of contradictory statements about the fate of the Armenian settlements in the Lachin Corridor.
It should be noted that while Baku was building its part of the new route connecting Armenia to Artsakh for a year, Artsakh and RA officials talked about the absence of negotiations or design works regarding that route. The Armenian side announced the construction of its section of the forced road only on August 1, after the new Azerbaijani aggression, as a result of which there were casualties and wounded.
At the same time, the Armenian side has only 2 weeks to complete the construction of the new route, otherwise Artsakh may be under complete blockade, as the Lachin corridor will come under Azerbaijani control from August 25.