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Putin Wants Release Of Hitman In Exchange For U.S. Prisoners Held In Russia, WSJ Says

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A sniper of Ukraine's 3rd Separate Assault Brigade takes a position during a reconnaissance mission near the eastern city of Bakhmut.

A sniper of Ukraine’s 3rd Separate Assault Brigade takes a position during a reconnaissance mission near the eastern city of Bakhmut.

The final declaration of the Group of 20 (G20) major economies in India left Kyiv angry over its refusal to condemn Moscow for its aggression against Ukraine, as new fragments of projectiles appeared to have landed on NATO-member Romania’s territory on September 9.

“We are grateful to the partners who tried to include strong wording in the text,” Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko posted on Facebook.

“However, in terms of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, [the] G20 has nothing to be proud of,” he wrote.

RFE/RL’s Live Briefing gives you all of the latest developments on Russia’s full-scale invasion, Kyiv’s counteroffensive, Western military aid, global reaction, and the plight of civilians. For all of RFE/RL’s coverage of the war in Ukraine, click here.

The final declaration revealed the sharp divisions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with host India able to get attendees to agree to a final statement only after softening language on Moscow’s war on its neighbor.

The statement underlined the “human suffering and negative added impacts of the war in Ukraine,” but did not mention Russia’s invasion.

“All states must refrain from the threat or use of force to seek territorial acquisition against the territorial integrity and sovereignty or political independence of any state. The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible,” it said, referencing the UN Charter.

A senior EU diplomat told AP that the bloc had not given up any of its position and said the fact that Moscow had signed on to the agreement was important.

“The option we have is text or no text, and I think it is better [to have a] text. At least if they [the Russians] don’t implement, we know once more that we cannot rely on them,” the diplomat said.

Meanwhile, Kyiv said the toll of the wounded from a Russian missile strike on the Ukrainian city of Kryviy Rih rose to 74, as Ukrainian forces pressed their slow counteroffensive against Russian forces in southern and eastern regions.

Elsewhere, Romanian officials said they had found new drone fragments on the NATO member’s territory near the Ukrainian border for the second time this week. The Defense Ministry said they were “similar to those used by the Russian Army.”

President Klaus Iohannis said in a statement that the fragments indicated “an absolutely unacceptable violation of the sovereign airspace of Romania, a NATO ally, with real risks to the security of Romanian citizens in the area.”

Iohannis added that he had a phone call with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to inform him of the new finding and that he had received assurances of the alliance’s support.

Moscow did not comment on the report.

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Eighteen months into Russia’s full-scale invasion, Ukraine is struggling to build momentum in the counteroffensive taking place over three fronts, with the primary push coming south of Orikhiv, in the southern Zaporizhzhya region.

While some Western allies have expressed frustration with the slow pace of the effort, now in its third month, Ukrainian troops have shown glimpses of success in breaching the Russian defensive lines.

Kyiv also claimed “partial success” in the east, near the obliterated Donetsk region city of Bakhmut, which Russia captured earlier this year.

And in Crimea, Russian-installed authorities in the city of Simferopol called a blaze at a military post a “domestic fire” and not the result of an attack by Ukrainian drones.

Full details of the blaze were not immediately available. Kyiv has not commented.

A main goal of Ukraine’s southern counteroffensive is to drive toward the peninsula and eventually retake the region, which was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.

Kyiv estimates that Russia has deployed more than 420,000 soldiers in areas it controls in the east and south of Ukraine, deputy intelligence chief Vadym Skibitskiy said on September 9.

“The Russian Federation has concentrated more than 420,000 servicemen in our territories that are temporarily occupied, including Crimea,” Skibitskiy said at a conference in Kyiv. The figure “does not include the Russian National Guard and other special units that maintain occupation authorities on our territories.”

Ukraine is almost entirely dependent on Western military aid and equipment to wage its defense against the Russian invasion. Kyiv has repeatedly pressed the United States and other allies for more powerful weaponry, such as F-16 fighter jets, which could be put into service next year.

Kyiv has also sought supplies of long-range, U.S.-designed Army Tactical Missile Systems, which have a greater distance for striking at Russian targets.

The United States has been reluctant to send the weapons, but unnamed U.S. officials told ABC News that the systems, known as ATACMS, or “attack-ems,” were likely to be supplied in the end.

“They are coming,” one anonymous official told ABC News on September 8. A second official said the missiles were “on the table” and likely to be included in an upcoming weapons package.

Japan’s foreign minister arrived in Kyiv on September 9 in an unannounced visit aimed at showing support for Ukraine.

Yoshimasa Hayashi met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and agreed to begin talks on potential security guarantees and to cooperate on reconstructing Ukraine’s economy, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said.

Japan has joined the West in supporting Ukraine and imposing sanctions on Russia. However, it does not allow the supply of weapons, under long-standing pacifist government policies.

It’s the first visit by a Japanese foreign minister to Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in a joint news conference thanked Hayashi for his country’s support and that he wanted the foreign minister “and the entire Japanese people to know that the Ukrainian people remember and will never forget the humanitarian aid.”

With reporting by Reuters and AP

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The Region in Brief

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The European Union has confirmed that its monitoring mission in Armenia was targeted by Azerbaijani fire. On August 15, Armenia’s Defense Ministry reported that the Azerbaijani armed forces fired at EU observers near Verin Shorzha village in the Gegharkunik province. The European Union Mission in Armenia (EUMA) denied the report, stating that none of its patrols had been the target of shooting. However, after a video of an EU patrol sheltering in a bunker appeared on social media, the EU released a “Correcting Statement,” stating, “We confirm that EUMA patrol has been present to the shooting incident in our area of responsibility.” 

In other EU news, the EUMA has denied Azerbaijani claims of Armenian military buildup along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. The EUMA said, based on its daily monitors of the security situation along the border, it saw “no unusual military movement or buildup, especially at the entrance to the Lachin Corridor.” On August 14, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry said that a “large amount of weapons, military equipment and personnel of the armed forces of Armenia have been accumulating along the un-demarcated border with Azerbaijan.” Armenian officials called the statement disinformation and reiterated that Armenia has no troops in Artsakh.


Journalists and civil society groups have directed mounting criticisms at RFE/RL’s Azerbaijan service, accusing the organization of bullying, financial mismanagement and favoritism. In the past two years, at least six journalists have been fired from the organization, while three have resigned in protest. Former employees have accused Ilkin Mammadov, the head of RFE/RL’s Azerbaijan service, of hiring journalists close to the government. Mammadov has led the organization from Prague since 2015, when Azerbaijan’s government shut down the Baku office. RFE/RL dismissed the accusations, stating it is “deeply concerned about unsubstantiated claims circulating on social media impugning our journalism in Azerbaijan.”


The American band The Killers is facing backlash from fans after inviting a Russian fan onstage during a concert in Georgia. Lead singer Brandon Flowers invited the fan onstage to play the drums. Flowers announced that the fan was Russian, and asked the crowd if it was okay to let him play. The crowd booed and whistled, cursing Russia and shouting, “Russia is an occupier!” Some concertgoers left the arena in protest. Flowers said the show should “bring people together” and that he sees the concertgoers as his “brothers and sisters.” The Killers later released an apology statement, stating that its message had not been political and “could be misconstrued.” Georgians overwhelmingly view Russia as the occupier of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and oppose Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Starvation: ‘The Invisible Genocide Weapon’

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An Azerbaijani soldier cries “Allahu Akbar” from atop the steeple of an Armenian church after breaking its cross off.

The thousand-year-old genocide of Armenians at the hands of Turkic peoples has reached a new level.

Several watchdog organizations—including the Association of Genocide Scholars, Genocide Watch, and the Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention—are accusing Azerbaijan of committing genocide against the 120,000 Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh. Historically known as Artsakh, this ancient Armenian region was annexed by and brought under Azerbaijani rule in 2020.

Modern day hostilities between Armenia, an ancient nation and the first to adopt Christianity, and Azerbaijan, a Muslim nation that was created in 1918, began in September 2020, when Azerbaijan launched a war to claim Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). Although it had been Armenian for over two thousand years, and still remains 90% Armenian, after the dissolution of the USSR, the “border makers” granted it to Azerbaijan, hence the constant warring over this region. (See “15 Artsakh War Myths Perpetuated By Mainstream Media.”)

Once the September 2020 war began, Turkey quickly joined its Azerbaijani co-religionists against Armenia, though the dispute clearly did not concern it. It dispatched sharia-enforcing “jihadist groups” from Syria and Libya—including the pro-Muslim Brotherhood Hamza Division, which once kept naked women chained and imprisoned—to terrorize and slaughter the Armenians.

One of these captured mercenaries later confessed that he was “promised a monthly $2,000 payment for fighting against ‘kafirs’ in Artsakh, and an extra 100 dollar[s] for each beheaded kafir.” (Kafir, often translated as “infidel,” is Arabic for any non-Muslim who fails to submit to Islam, which makes them de facto enemies.)

All these Muslim groups committed massive atrocities (see here and here), including by raping an Armenian female soldier and mother of three, before hacking off all four of her limbs, gouging her eyes, and mockingly sticking one of her severed fingers inside her private parts.

The war ended in November 2020, with Azerbaijan claiming a significant portion of Artsakh.

Then, on December 12, 2022, Azerbaijan sealed off the humanitarian Lachin Corridor—the only route between Artsakh and the outside world. A recent report by Dutch journalist, Sonja Dahlmans, summarizes the situation since:

In the extreme southeastern part of Europe, known as the Caucasus, a silent genocide is looming. The Lachin Corridor that connects Armenia to Artsakh, the region in Azerbaijan where mainly Christian Armenians live, has been closed by the government for eight months. Supermarket shelves are empty; there is hardly any food, fuel, or medicines for the 120,000 Armenian Christians who live there, including 30,000 children and 20,000 seniors.

At the time of this writing [Aug. 24, 2023], a convoy of food and medicines has been standing in front of the border since July 25 [a month], but the International Red Cross is not allowed access to the inhabitants of Artsakh. According to journalists living in the area, most residents only get one meal a day. People in Artsakh queue for hours at night for bread, waiting for their daily rations. At the same time, sources within Artsakh report shooting at Armenians trying to harvest the land.

… [I]n all probability bread will also soon be unavailable due to the shortage of fuel… Bakers can no longer heat their ovens. Last week, a 40-year-old Armenian man died of malnutrition. A pregnant woman lost her child because there was no fuel for transport to the hospital.

Separate reports tell of, in one instance, 19 humanitarian trucks “loaded with some 360 tons of medicine and food supplies” that have been parked for weeks and prevented from crossing.

This, of course, would not be the first time Turks starve Armenians to death (as the following picture of a Turkish administrator taunting emaciated Armenian children with a piece of bread in 1915 makes clear).

On August 7, 2023, Luis Moreno Ocampo, the former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, framed the situation well:

There is an ongoing Genocide against 120,000 Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Artsakh.

The blockade of the Lachin Corridor by the Azerbaijani security forces impeding access to any food, medical supplies, and other essentials should be considered a Genocide under Article II, (c) of the Genocide Convention: ‘Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction.’

There are no crematories, and there are no machete attacks. Starvation is the invisible Genocide weapon. Without immediate dramatic change, this group of Armenians will be destroyed in a few weeks.

Starvation as a method to destroy people was neglected by the entire international community when it was used against Armenians in 1915, Jews and Poles in 1939, Russians in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) in 1941, and Cambodians in 1975/1976.

Similarly, after going on a fact-finding mission to Armenia, former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback referred to the blockade as the latest attempt at “religious cleansing” of Christian Armenia:

Azerbaijan, with Turkey’s backing, is really slowly strangling Nagorno-Karabakh. They’re working to make it unlivable so that the region’s Armenian-Christian population is forced to leave, that’s what’s happening on the ground.

Muslim regimes regularly make life intolerable for Christian minorities in an effort to get them to abandon their properties and leave. Just a few weeks ago, the president of Iraq revoked a decade-old decree that granted Chaldean Patriarch Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako powers over Christian endowment affairs. “This is a political maneuver to seize the remainder of what Christians have left in Iraq and Baghdad and to expel them,” said Diya Butrus Slewa, a human rights activist from Ainkawa. “Unfortunately, this is a blatant targeting of the Christians and a threat to their rights.”

In Artsakh, the situation seems to be worse: just as no one can get in, no one can apparently get out. Azerbaijan is holding those 120,000 Armenians captive, starving and abusing them at will.

In his testimony, Brownback said that this latest genocide is being “perpetrated with U.S.-supplied weaponry and backed by Turkey, a member of NATO.” If the U.S. does not act, “we will see again another ancient Christian population forced out of its homeland.”

Not only has U.S. diplomacy been ineffective for the besieged Armenians; it has actually exacerbated matters. According to one report,

[T]he only thing the Washington-backed talks appear to have produced is the emboldenment of Azerbaijan’s aggression….

For over eight months, the region’s 120,000 Indigenous Armenians—who declared their independence in the early 1990s following escalating violence and ethnic cleansing by Azerbaijan—have been deprived access to food, medicine, fuel, electricity, and water in what is nothing less than genocide by attrition….

The same week peace talks began in Washington, Baku [capital of Azerbaijan] tightened its blockade by establishing a military checkpoint at the Lachin Corridor. And when Washington-based talks resumed in June, Azerbaijan began shelling the region. In the months since, the International Committee of the Red Cross has been denied access to Karabakh—and later reported that an Armenian patient in its care had been abducted by Azerbaijani forces en route to Armenia for treatment.

This is the predictable consequence of Washington’s insistence on negotiations amid Azerbaijan’s blockade of Artsakh and occupation of Armenian territory. This has signaled to Baku that its strategy of coercive diplomacy is working, disincentivizing de-escalation, and forcing Armenia to negotiate with a gun to its head…

Washington has also actively strengthened Azerbaijan’s position by indicating support for Artsakh’s integration into Azerbaijan. Given Azerbaijan’s state-sponsored dehumanization of Armenians, the litany of human rights abuses perpetrated during and since the 2020 war, and its own disastrous domestic human rights record—it is impossible to imagine Armenians could ever live freely under Azerbaijan’s rule.

For Azerbaijan, this disingenuous participation in negotiations has allowed it to uphold the veneer of cooperation while engaging in conduct that has immeasurably set back the prospects of a durable peace.

Clearly, negotiating simply bought the Azerbaijanis more time in which to starve the Armenians, and possibly another way for the United States to pretend it was “doing something” without actually doing anything — apart from allowing more savagery.

Indeed, part of the façade of diplomacy is that Azerbaijan insists that the Christian Armenians of Artsakh are being treated no differently than Muslim Azerbaijanis—since all are citizens of Azerbaijan. One report sheds light on this farce:

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and other officials have declared that the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh are citizens of Azerbaijan, seeming to back prior statements of Azerbaijani authorities pledging to guarantee the rights and security of ethnic Armenians.

But actions speak much louder. The First Nagorno-Karabakh War three decades ago arose following waves of anti-Armenian pogroms. Azerbaijan is now one of the most repressive and autocratic countries in the world, scoring among the lowest in the world on freedom and democracy indexes—in stark contrast to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Aliyev (who inherited his post from his father) has confessed to having started the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War in 2020, and proudly admitted that a generation of Azerbaijanis has been brought up to deeply despise Armenians (here and here).

He denies the Armenian Genocide (alongside Turkey) and negates the existence of Armenians as a nation, including their history, culture, and right to be present anywhere in the region.

No Armenian, not even a foreign national of ethnic Armenian descent or anyone with an Armenian sounding name, is allowed to enter Azerbaijan.

The results are clear: nearly every Armenian who fell into Azerbaijani captivity after the [Sept-Nov] 2020 war has been persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, mutilated, decapitated and/or murdered. None of these acts have ever been punished. To the contrary, those who kill Armenians receive medals and are glorified in Azerbaijan. It is no wonder that Armenians are petrified and cannot fathom living under Azerbaijan’s authority.

Aside from the Lachin corridor crisis, a recent 12-page report documents the systematic destruction of ancient churches, crosses, Christian cemeteries, and other cultural landmarks on land—Artsakh—that historically belonged to the world’s oldest Christian nation, Armenia.

One example is the Holy Savior Cathedral in Shushi, Artsakh. First, Azerbaijan bombed the church during the 2020 war, an act Human Rights Watch labeled a “possible war crime.” Then, after Azerbaijan seized the region, officials claimed to be “restoring” the church, when in fact its dome and cross were removed, making the building look less like a church. As one report notes,

The ‘case’ of Shushi is indicative of the well-documented history of Armenian cultural and religious destruction by Azerbaijan. From 1997 to 2006, Azerbaijan systematically obliterated almost all traces of Armenian culture in the Nakhichevan area, which included the destruction of medieval churches, thousands of carved stone crosses (“khachkars”), and historical tombstones.

Dahlmans also reports

on an Armenian church in Artsakh that disappeared after Azerbaijan’s victory in the second Nagorno-Karabakh war (2020). During the victory, Azerbaijani soldiers pose on top of the church shouting “Allahu Akhbar” [image above]… [T]he church has been completely wiped out and only a few stone remains remain as a reminder… The Western press rarely writes about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Most reactions follow the line that it is not a religious conflict, but a claim by two countries over a disputed territory. Given the many examples that exist in which precisely religious buildings, tombs and inscriptions are systematically destroyed, it is difficult to maintain that this is the case.

One of the main reasons that Armenia finds itself standing alone against this genocidal onslaught is due to the West’s “desire to maintain favorable relations with Azerbaijan given its role as a European energy partner [and this] has outweighed any purported commitment to upholding human rights—bolstering Azerbaijan’s aggression.”

It is these same priorities that have made Russia, once the defender of all Orthodox Christian nations in the East, more apathetic than might be expected. According to another report,

Azerbaijan was able to impose this blockade because Russian peacekeepers allow them to do so. The Russians are there as part of a ceasefire agreement ending the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War. The same agreement, inked by Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2020, guarantees access along that now-blocked road. Although Russia is often portrayed as Armenia’s patron, the reality is more complicated. Russia’s largest oil company owns a 19.99% share of Azerbaijan’s largest natural gas field. It is not so surprising then that Armenians in Artsakh demonstrated against Russian inaction after the killings of their police officials.

Longtime Armenian-activist, Lucine Kasbarian, author of Armenia: A Rugged Land, an Enduring People, sums up the situation:

We who are Armenian, Assyrian, Greek and Coptic bitterly know just how this will end. It’s deja vu all over again. Again and again, we’ve seen the deceit and brutality, received the chilling reports, warnings, graphic videos, open letters and petitions from alarmed genocide scholars. But alas, NATO, Islamic supremacism, gas and oil are going to take precedence over life and liberty once again unless high-powered vigilantism can save the day.

Raymond Ibrahim, author of Defenders of the West and Sword and Scimitar is the Distinguished Senior Shillman Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and the Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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Guiding Conflicting Factions Toward Addressing the Lachin Crisis

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At a juncture where sustainable peace seemed achievable, Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan’s recognition of Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan—arriving finally two years after the end of the Second Karabakh War, with the mediation of Brussels and Washington—appeared to be a positive development. Regrettably, this promising trajectory now faces the risk of unraveling, jeopardizing all progress made after the recent escalation around Lachin Road and claims about humanitarian conditions.

On April 23 of this year, Azerbaijan strategically positioned a checkpoint in Lachin, a pivotal juncture along the internationally recognized border between Azerbaijan and Armenia. This checkpoint held significant importance as it served as the sole road connecting the Armenian-populated enclave in Karabakh to the Republic of Armenia. Initially, the road functioned without major disruptions. However, tensions escalated following an attack on its checkpoint on June 15, prompting Azerbaijan to impose limitations on its operations. Azerbaijan also contended that this road had been exploited for illicit activities such as smuggling mines, weapons, and individuals affiliated with the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) into the region.

On July 26, a convoy of nineteen trucks carrying humanitarian aid was dispatched by the Armenian government, but Azerbaijan barred its entry into the region. This provided Armenia with a pretext to instrumentalize humanitarian issues to bring the matter before the UN Security Council for discussion on August 16. It was not coincidental that certain speakers during the Security Council discussion recommended refraining from employing humanitarian concerns as political leverage. Ahead of the UN Security Council session, significant resources were channeled into a global media campaign, involving politicians, celebrities, and even controversial figures like Luis Moreno Ocampo. The intention behind this was to shape a pro-Armenian sentiment within the international audience and to impose psychological and moral pressure on Azerbaijan, the global community, and the members of the UN Security Council.

Matters have only escalated since. On August 29, the Azerbaijan Red Crescent Society, affiliated with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, dispatched two trucks loaded with flour to aid Armenian residents in Karabakh through the Aghdam Road. This effort was aimed at breaking the ongoing deadlock and addressing concerns of manipulation surrounding the delivery of aid. However, the trucks encountered concrete roadblocks erected by individuals associated with radical groups who staunchly advocate for the sole use of the Lachin Road and vehemently oppose any alternative routes to the region. A few days later, the spokesperson for Charles Michel, president of the European Council, emphasized the importance of a step-by-step approach, which would involve a carefully sequenced operation for the full utilization of the Ağdam and Lachin routes.

Peace Is Achievable Solely via Sincere Negotiations

Rather than engaging in direct and honest dialogue with Azerbaijan without any mediators—as also endorsed and urged by the United States to address any concerns, including humanitarian matters—Armenia is putting significant effort into exploiting humanitarian issues for its global propaganda purposes. Conversely, following the conclusion of the Second Karabakh War, Armenian propaganda has focused on attempting tirelessly to portray Azerbaijan through an “Israelization” lens and positioning Armenia as a victim in a manner reminiscent of the Palestinian situation.

The intent behind this approach is unmistakably clear, evident not just to those in Baku but also conspicuously acknowledged in Yerevan: to establish the notion within the international community that Karabakhi Armenians cannot viably coexist under Azerbaijan’s jurisdiction. This narrative is constructed to morally validate the concept of remedial secession or separatism for Karabakhi Armenians.

As previously articulated within this platform, for Azerbaijan the dark reality of occupation hides behind the glitzy façade of remedial secession or self-determination and efforts to link the claim to liberal values, like in Crimea, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Donbas, and Luhansk. Additionally, the discussions and promotional efforts aimed at advancing a remedial secession agenda are perceived by Azerbaijan as an endeavor to divert the attention of the international community from the twenty-seven-year-long occupation of Azerbaijani territories, the plights of up to one million internally displaced persons, their inability to return to the liberated lands because of widely planted landmines, and the complete destruction of urban centers and rural communities like Aghdam. Indeed, acknowledging these responsibilities and addressing the complexities arising from this prolonged situation holds the utmost significance in ensuring enduring peace for the times ahead. Disregarding or deflecting focus away from the twenty-seven-year-long occupation could cast a shadow over the prospects of future peace, potentially leading to a less hopeful outlook.

Following their defeat in the 2020 conflict, Armenia lacks the military capability to directly challenge Azerbaijan and assert its claims over Karabakh. Moreover, Armenia’s demands are not substantiated by international law. In light of these constraints, Armenia’s primary recourse remains the pursuit of “moral justification” on the global stage to substantiate its claim over Karabakh.

At the same time, prominent Armenian analysts, including figures like Richard Kirakosyan, advocate for a strategic approach acknowledging Armenia’s military inferiority to Azerbaijan. They propose delaying the peace process between Armenia and Azerbaijan to allocate time for rebuilding and modernizing Armenia’s military capabilities.

Significantly, the program outlined by Pashinyan’s government for the former Nagorno-Karabakh Oblast, endorsed by Armenia’s National Assembly following the 2021 elections, contains a provision obligating Pashinyan’s administration to secure the Karabakhi Armenians’ right to remedial secession. The recent acknowledgment of Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan by Pashinyan’s government is not contradictory to this obligation; instead, it aligns with the commitment made in 2021 to pursue remedial secession. This alignment is evident in the range of actions and policies pursued by the Pashinyan government, including its recent international initiatives related to Lachin.

As a result, the statement made by the U.S ambassador to Armenia, Kristina Kvien, at the beginning of June, asserting the potential for Karabakhi Armenians to coexist securely under Azerbaijani governance, faced considerable backlash—even in the wake of the recognition of Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan. This criticism prompted the ambassador to walk back her comments the following day, stating that the United States “does not presuppose the outcome of negotiations on the future of Nagorno-Karabakh.”

Enough is Enough

Beneath the surface of this intricate political struggle lies the enduring plight of ordinary people from both sides of the conflict. Amidst the Russian military presence and the remnants of Armenia’s armed forces, individual stories such as that of Izaura Balasanyan emerge, encapsulating the persistent suffering endured. Her story also sheds light on the intricate complexities that impede the path to normalcy and reconciliation for two populations separated by a protracted three-decade-long conflict.

In September 2021, faced with mounting needs and an avaricious landlord, Izaura made a fateful decision driven by desperation: escaping the confines of the Armenian enclave. Her goal was to reach the comparatively promising Azerbaijani-controlled territories. However, her journey was abruptly halted when Russian peacekeepers apprehended her and handed her back into the custody of local Armenian security services.

Since then, the fate of this unfortunate woman has remained cloaked in uncertainty, her story fading into obscurity. Remarkably, her plight has failed to attract the attention of any international institution, leaving her ordeal unexamined and her voice unheard. This stark reality underscores the challenges faced by countless individuals akin to Izaura, trapped in the labyrinthine nexus of radical nationalism and a three-decade-long conflict.

The tale of Izaura serves as a clear example of those opposing the reintegration of these two communities and those acting as a barrier between them. In 2022, with the mediation of the United States in Washington, Armenia and Azerbaijan reached an agreement to commence dialogue for the reintegration between Baku and the Karabakhi Armenians. Interestingly, immediately following this accord, Moscow sent a Russian billionaire, Ruben Vardanyan, who lacks native ties to Karabakh, to the region to undermine the reintegration dialogue. He subsequently expelled all proponents of dialogue from the local de-facto administration. Despite his resignation, both he and Russia continue to uphold the trajectory that was established to impede all reintegration efforts.

Nevertheless, accountability extends beyond Russia and the radicals it supports. It encompasses politicians, experts, and journalists who, regrettably, remain detached from the anguish experienced by individuals like Izaura. Their disengagement underscores the urgency of comprehending the broader context enveloping these narratives.

Blame Games

Paradoxically, while politicians silence the cries of desperate individuals like Izaura, who were taken hostage and who are marginalized, they concurrently appeal to the global stage about the existence of humanitarian crises. In a contrasting stance, local leaders such as Human Rights Defender Gegham Stepanyan and others advocate for a balanced approach. Stepanyan advises restraint in sharing social media posts containing videos of uplifting occasions like weddings and other events that radiate inspiration and prosperity. Conversely, he advocates for refraining from disseminating videos depicting lavish lifestyles—a narrative that clashes with the established official stance.

Consequently, the ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has now found its way into the realm of conflicting narratives within the sphere of social media. On these platforms, Armenians are diligently amplifying efforts to underscore the allegedly pressing humanitarian situation on the ground. In a contrasting display, Azerbaijani social media users are sharing recently published videos featuring Armenian counterparts participating in weddings, extravagant restaurant celebrations, and gatherings within Karabakh that radiate joy and prosperity. This clash of narratives reached its peak during a session of the UN Security Council. The Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs presented images of purportedly distressed children, prompting the Azerbaijani ambassador to counter with joyful and abundant photographs depicting life in Karabakh.

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OIC reps to conduct fact-finding mission in Azerbaijan’s Aghdam, Fuzuli and Ganja

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A delegation headed by the chairman of the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission within the framework of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) arrived in Azerbaijan at the invitation of the Commissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsperson) of the Republic of Azerbaijan Sabina Aliyeva to conduct a fact-finding mission in Ganja, Aghdam and Fuzuli districts, according to Azerbaijan in Focus, reporting Trend.

The delegation included Chairman of the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC IPHRC) Muhammad Suleiman Lawal (Nigeria), Deputy Chairman of the OIC IPHRC Haci Ali Acikgul (Türkiye), member of the OIC NHRC Hilal bin Said Al Shidhani (Oman), Executive Director of the OIC NHRC Secretariat Noura bint Zaid Al-Rashoud (Saudi Arabia Arabia), Director of the OIC NHRC Secretariat Javed Saglaine (Pakistan), employee of the OIC NHRC Secretariat Ibrahim Saidu Kamara (Guinea).

The main purpose of the visit is to establish the facts of Armenia’s destruction of religious and cultural monuments, and cemeteries belonging to Azerbaijanis, to collect materials about Azerbaijanis affected by occupation and rocket bombing, as well as to prepare a report on the results of the mission and present it to the international community.

The post OIC reps to conduct fact-finding mission in Azerbaijan’s Aghdam, Fuzuli and Ganja appeared first on Azerbaijan In Focus.

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Yerevan, Baku agree to reopen Lachin Corridor

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Iran closely watching South Caucasus region

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Iran has made it clear that it’s closely watching the situation and won’t accept any geopolitical changes on its doorstep. 

Over the last few days, the authorities of Baku and Yerevan traded accusations of trying to initiate new major military escalations. Videos and photos circulating on social media indicated that the accusations may be rooted in reality as both countries have moved to reinforce their troops along the border. 

In parallel, the leaders of Baku and Yerevan started discrete diplomatic campaigns to win over regional and international heavyweights in apparent anticipation of a major escalation of tensions. 

Iran is closely following the developments as they unfold. 

On Saturday, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi received a phone call from Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan as part of the Armenian premier’s diplomatic push to fend off a potential war with Azerbaijan. 
In what appeared to be a warning to Azerbaijan, President Raisi said Iran is ready to prevent any changes in regional geopolitics. 

For context, the Republic of Azerbaijan has been calling for the establishment of a corridor called “Zangezour” that links the exclave of Nakhchivan to mainland Azerbaijan ever since it won the 2020 Karabakh war. 

The corridor, if established, would cut off Iran’s access to Armenia, potentially depriving Iran of an alternative route to Europe. Iran has made it crystal clear that it won’t accept this geopolitical change all while highlighting the need for maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan. 

But it seems that Iran’s continued calls for peace and security have fallen on deaf ears in Baku and Ankara, which are clearly trying to impose new geopolitical realities. 

President Raisi once again reiterated Iran’s firm position regarding the situation in the South Caucasus region. 

Responding to a report about the situation in the region presented by Pashinyan, Raisi reiterated the serious opposition of the Islamic Republic of Iran to any tension and changes in the historical borders of the region, according to a readout by the official website of the Iranian presidency. 

Raisi emphasized the readiness of Iran as a powerful neighbor to play an effective role in preventing new conflicts and any changes in the geopolitics of the region.

Announcing the Islamic Republic of Iran’s support for the territorial integrity of all countries in the region, President Raisi said, “We believe that regional issues should be resolved through dialogue between the countries of the region, and we are seriously opposed to the involvement of foreign countries in the Caucasus region’s issues. Iran is ready to play its role to help resolve issues through diplomatic talks.”

In another part of this telephone conversation, President Raisi expressed his satisfaction with the report of the Prime Minister of Armenia on the favorable progress of economic cooperation and the implementation of the agreements and the readiness of our country to further develop economic and commercial interactions and accelerate the implementation of agreements with Armenia.

In this telephone conversation, Pashinyan, while presenting a detailed report on the latest developments in the South Caucasus region as well as the field developments in the Caucasus, stated, “The Islamic Republic of Iran has always played an effective and constructive role in establishing, maintaining and strengthening peace, stability, and security in the region.”

While appreciating the positions of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Caucasus region, the Prime Minister of Armenia also presented a report on the latest status of economic cooperation between the two countries, as well as the measures taken to accelerate the implementation of the agreements reached during his visit to Tehran last year.

Simultaneously, an Iranian military delegation met on Saturday with Zakir Hasanov, the defense minister of Azerbaijan in Baku. 

The two sides discussed security issues in the region, according to Fars News.

The timing of the meeting suggests that the Iranian delegation might have conveyed a message from Iran regarding the prospect of new escalations between Baku and Yerevan. 

Iran has offered help to achieve peace and security in the South Caucasus region through diplomatic means. But it also said it cannot accept any use of force in the region to dictate new geopolitical realities. It remains to be seen whether Baku and Yerevan heeded the Iranian calls. 

By Sadegh Fereydounabadi

First published in Tehran Times

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UN Security Council convenes emergency meeting on Artsakh … – Armenian Weekly

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UN Security Council convenes emergency meeting on Artsakh …  Armenian Weekly

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Azerbaijan could reopen Lachin Corridor on certain condition

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  • By
    Al Mayadeen English
  • Source: Politico
  • Today 11:34

The Lachin Corridor remains closed until now but could reopen as Azerbaijan reassesses its position following hints that Armenia could accept Russian aid through an alternative route that crosses Azerbaijan.

  • Activists block a road from Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, to Azerbaijani Aghdam demanding the reopening of the blockaded Lachin Corridor linking Karabakh to Armenia on July 18, 2023. (AFP)
    Activists block a road from Stepanakert, the capital of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, to Azerbaijani Aghdam demanding the reopening of the blockaded Lachin Corridor linking Karabakh to Armenia on July 18, 2023. (AFP)

On condition that leaders of Nagorno-Karabakh accept aid from Azerbaijan and not only from Armenia, the Azeri government agreed to reopen the Lanchin corridor linking Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh, according to information citing a senior Azerbaijani official in POLITICO on Saturday.

The announcement comes after authorities in the Armenian-controlled exclave, also known to Armenians as the Republic of Artsakh, announced earlier in the day that it would accept humanitarian shipments from the Russian Red Cross via an alternative route.

The chosen route was through Aghdam, located within Azerbaijani government-held territory, which pushed Azerbaijan to reconsider its position.

In turn, Hikmet HAjiyev, the foreign policy adviser to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev announced that “Azerbaijan expressed its consent as a goodwill gesture to ensure simultaneous opening” of the Lachin Corridor to allow for the transportation of ICRC cargo, reaffirming that “In the Lachin checkpoint, Azerbaijan’s customs and border regime must be observed.”

The Lanchin Corridor stands as the sole roadway linking Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia, without which Armenia loses its only access to the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh. Consequently, severing this corridor has created hardships in the area, affecting the import of essential resources such as oil, electricity, food, and medical supplies. Nevertheless, both the corridor and the region have garnered international attention, given the substantial interests of multiple stakeholders in this region, which is geographically adjacent to Iran.

Azerbaijan builds up military forces on border: Armenian MoD

The Armenian Defense Ministry stated on Friday, underscoring the precarious situation prevailing at the border with Azerbaijan due to the apparent buildup of Azerbaijani military forces.

The mounting tension has raised concerns, prompting the Armenian Armed Forces to take measures aimed at maintaining stability and deterring potential provocations. “The situation continues to be tense as a result of the accumulation of Azerbaijani armed forces during the last two days. Hence, the Armenian Armed Forces continue to take necessary actions to stabilize it and prevent provocations,” the Armenian MoD said in an official statement. 

This recent escalation follows a recurring pattern of periodic exchanges of fire along the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The most significant flare-up in hostilities took place on September 12, 2022, leaving regional observers wary of a possible repeat of such confrontations.

Read more: Moscow summons Armenian envoy, gives him a ‘tough presentation’

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Armenia, Iran leaders speak amid Yerevan-Baku tensions

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Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Iran‘s President Ebrahim Raisi spoke Saturday, as tensions escalated on Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan.

Pashinyan and Raisi discussed issues including the blockade of the Lachin corridor leading to the Nagorno-Karabakh region by Azerbaijan, and the buildup of the Azerbaijani military around the disputed region, read a statement from the Armenian prime minister’s office released Saturday.

The call was one of a series made by Pashinyan, who also spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, among others, according to other statement from the prime minister’s office.

The flurry of calls comes as tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan increase following Azerbaijan’s blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh by cutting off the Lachin corridor, the only road that connects the enclave to Armenia.

The blockade, which has been ongoing since December 2022, has resulted in food and fuel shortages in the territory.

These tensions have further escalated following the election of Samvel Shahramanyan as the new leader of Nagorno-Karabakh, an act Azerbaijan labelled as “a clear violation of Azerbaijan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

As well as tensions over the current situation with Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defence claimed that Armenian soldiers opened fire with small arms on its soldiers in the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan – a claim denied by the Armenian defence ministry.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have had tense relations following both countries independence from the Soviet Union, fighting two wars over the ethnically Armenian territory of Nagorno-Karabakh which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan. 

The most recent all-out war, fought in 2020, resulted in a Russian-backed ceasefire, with much of the Armenian held territory, some of which being outside Nagorno-Karabakh, was ceded to Azerbaijan.

However, the two countries have yet to sign a lasting peace settlement even with mediation efforts from international powers such as the EU, the US and Russia.

Iran has sought to present itself as a mediator in Baku and Yerevan’s longstanding dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, but Tehran has been accused of sending weapons to the Armenians to support its fight for the territory. Iran has denied such claims.

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