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“…The war is over, the conflict goes on, Russia is in the region…”
The most popular FB news concerns the controversial arrival of the Russian peacekeepers, worries caused by uncertainty of Turkish participation in the peacekeeping operation, the delay in liberation of the remaining territories, the release of the 21 political prisoners to house arrest, the destruction of the villages and towns by the departing Armenian settlers, the debate on the ownership of the Christian monasteries and churches, the companies who were developing resources within the occupied territories, the celebration of the National Day of Revival of 17th November 1988, the speech of president Aliyev and Putin’s interview.
The FB community is concerned about the Russian peacekeepers’ role and activities, and the uncertainty related to the role of Turkey. Tofig Yagublu of Musavat ironically calls the Russia troops not peacekeeping but “occupational”. He also makes a comparison of the current war with WW2, stressing the role of Stalin in the unjustified number of victims due to the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Act. He argues that Stalin shares responsibility for the devastating cost of the war, as his own rule resulted in numerous victims of political repression at home. The FB community posts photos of yet another meeting of the commander of the Russian peacekeepers with the leader of the Karabagh Armenians, despite criticism in Azerbaijan. An activist considers that the arrival of the Russian peacekeepers was prepared by the activities of the former head of presidential administration, Ramiz Mehdiyev. The civil and political leaders continue to express their views on the issue of the preservation of historical monuments of early Christianity, responding to the blame of some Western observers on policy of “Albanization” of the Armenian monuments. Some decry these claims, others argue that the Arab conquest destroyed all the pre-Islamic heritage, while a third group calls for acceptance of the fact of the later “Armenization” of the Albanian Church and to deal with it as such.
The FB community shares news about Karabagh talks in Paris, and as reported by Osmangizi TV, the US support for Turkey’s mediation. The same TV station compares the way both nations left Kelbajar: while Armenian settlers are burning everything behind themselves, the Azerbaijani IDPs are still keeping the keys from their houses there. The lawyer Agil Layij argues that Russia will not be able to conduct the same policies in Karabagh as it realized in Abkhazia, Ossetia, and Transnistria, due to the counterbalancing factor of Turkey. The political leaders, activists, and journalists express their condolences to Khadija Ismayil, whose nephew Rovshan Ismayilov was killed in the war. Meydan TV reported president Ilham Aliyev’s speech, in which he confirmed that Karabagh Armenians are the country’s citizens and will be entitled to the same rights and benefits as the others.
Activists, human rights defenders and journalists continue to express dissatisfaction with the coverage of the conflict by Radio Freedom’s Russian Service. The activists share the list of the Western companies which had illegally worked on the occupied territories: the largest European and the second in the world copper producer Aurubis, which was registered in Germany, was buying annually 10,000 mt of copper from the company Vallex Group, which was paying 35% of taxes, with 1200 workers of Upper Karabagh, Vodafone, France’s Telecom via its representative Orange S.A. under the name of Karabagh, Credit Agricole Bank of France was represented by registered in Armenia ACBA Credit Agricole with its 28% of shares was active in Upper Karabagh, has been cooperating with the FMO Bank, managed by the government of Netherlands, which in turn was cooperating with the European Fund, Vympelcom international telecommunication company with the center in Netherlands and Russia had a branch in Armenia— Armentel and in Upper Karabagh called “Artsakh”, Frank Muller with the executive Vardan Sirmakes has been robbing the gold mines in Zangilan region “Veyneli” field, Kelbajar region” Soyudlu”. This company was a shareholder of the other illegally operating companies such as Artsakhbank, Armswissbank, ArtsahKHEK. The economic experts suggest that Azerbaijan should apply to the international courts in connection with these companies activities. The FB community also shares the rating of the two armies according to the Global Fire Power with Azerbaijan -65th, Armenia-111th. Gubad Ibadoglu urges to develop the country so as to increase international ratings on all other aspects, including academic publications, freedoms, corruption etc.
Reaction of political and civil leaders. Arif Hajili of Musavat, congratulating his followers on National Revival Day, states that the national meeting in protest to the expulsion of Azerbaijanis from Armenia and the anti-Azerbaijani policies of the Soviet Union on 17 November 1988 has demonstrated a unique national unity and laid the foundation for all national movement over the integrity and sovereignty of the country. He compared it to the current unity and called 44 days the new stage of the national revival. He reminded everyone of the national army’s success in liberating the lands, and of almost freeing Kelbajar in 1993, when just a few days before its full liberation the coup-d’état took place and the tandem of YAP (ruling party) and AMIP contributed to the prevention of its liberation as well as the ensuing occupation of the 6 further regions. He described how the guards of Elchibey were killed in Ganja, and how all the heads of the executive power in the regions were taken as hostages by military bandits. Isa Gambar of Musavat also congratulated people on National Revival Day and announced the creation of an Institute named after Elchibey (the first democratically elected president of Azerbaijan, 1992-3)
Khadija Ismayil, an investigative journalist, made a statement in response to the call of the Dutch MP to apply sanctions against Azerbaijan and Turkey. “Any attempt to sanction the Azerbaijani government or Turkey in relation to war in Karabakh should be strongly condemned by Azerbaijani civil society. Azerbaijan’s actions in this war were a RESPONSE to the occupation and displacement of more than 700,000 Azerbaijanis by Armenia. Armenia together with Russia is the initiator and guilty of this war. Armenia should have been condemned and sanctioned, long ago. The world should celebrate the chance for the return of these 700,000 IDPs to their homes. The world did nothing to make this happen by peaceful means. Civilians (refugees, IDPs, people who died from Armenian army’s rocket attacks far away from the war zone) of Azerbaijan are also human beings. If you didn’t care about them, don’t pretend you care about anything.”
Seymur Hezi of PFP writes: “The war is over, the conflict goes on, Russia is in the region. There is a new political situation here.” He warns authorities not to violate freedoms and rights in the country in such a critical period of history. He also supports the joint statement of France and the USA as it may help to neutralize Russia.
Natig Jafarli of REAL argues that none of the states’ co-chairmen of the OSCE can send peacekeeping troops to Karabagh, including Russia, as the political solution is not found yet, and the issue of status, as they say will be discussed during talks over a long period.
Gubad Ibadoglu of ADR discusses the decree of the president on construction of the road Ahmadbeyli-Fizuli—Shusha of 101.5 km length and the first allocation of 50m manat from the budget to the State Agency of Automobile Roads of Azerbaijan. ADR also published its appeal to Turkish prime minister Erdogan to accelerate the creation of the strategic defence agreement between the two countries due to the threat represented by Russian troops to the country.
Human rights and social issues. The FB community greets the release of the 21 out of 36 political prisoners arrested after the Karabagh rally in July 2020. Azadlyg newspaper reports on the sharp deterioration of the state of health of the human rights defender Ogtay Gulaliyev who was hit by a car last year and has been treated until recently in Turkey. The family members spread an appeal to help them to place and treat him in the local Central Hospital. The FB community decries the sentence of 16 years in prison given to the journalist Polad Aslanov, who was arrested by the National Security Agency and charged with espionage in favour of Iran. People often complain about difficulties in finding any information about their relatives and family members who fought at the front. The newly released political prisoners gave interviews to the newspapers and described the circumstances of their arrests, the conditions of their imprisonment and the decision to release them to house arrest. Fuad Gahramanli, the activist of the PFP — who was for a long time incommunicado, suggested that due to the war and public opinion, as well as to the futility of their pressure, the government was forced to release them.
COVID-19 pandemic. The operative headquarters reported 1,139 recovered, while of 2,075 new cases registered, 20 died. Till now 79,158 have been infected, 56,894 have recovered, 1005 died, with the active ill counted as 21,259.
Events in Belarus. FB users continue to follow events in Belarus, sharing news about the death of Roman Bondarenko and video about the popular protest in society with its violent dispersal and detention by the police.
Perception of Armenia. The activists follow events in Armenia, share news about the resignation of the foreign minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian, seeing it along with other resignations as an indication of the power crisis in the country. Some suggest various scenarios of the situation there, assessing their implication for stability in Karabagh. They also share the news that the president of Armenia Armen Sarkisian has called for extraordinary parliamentary elections. They quote Pashinian, who responded to the blame that “Shusha was sold out” — that if this is so, then it had been sold out within last 30 years.
Relations with Turkey. FB users follow and share news about voting in the Turkish parliament about sending peacekeepers in Karabagh and the decision to have Turkish representatives in the Monitoring Centre for 1 year. The ADR movement stresses that so far, the role of Turkey does not respond to people’s expectations, and there should be a bilateral Azerbaijani-Turkish agreement of military alliance signed. FB reports the accumulation of Turkish military equipment and cargo planes near the borders of Armenia and Nakhichevan. The activists discuss the video conference in the Turkish Ministry of Defence, suggesting that the agreement for cooperation with Russia within the Monitoring Centre apparently is getting concretised.
Relations with Russia. Activists and journalists analyse Putin’s speech. They stress that he recognized the importance of Turkey’s role in the region, but expressed their concern that he calls the status issue a matter for the future. The FB community is extremely concerned with the creation of the special department of the Organizational Analytical agency of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia in Karabagh, which will be busy with issues of passports for the local population during the next 5 years. People share Meydan’s TV programme on Putin’s statement that the great achievement was to stop the war and that the status quo had been preserved, leaving its final status for the future. FB users ironically comment on this, saying that Putin himself has been behind this conflict in the first place.
Relations with Netherlands. The FB community decries the call in the Dutch Parliament to apply sanctions against Azerbaijan and Turkey, and comment on its decision to limit the sale of weapons to Turkey. They also mention plans for a similar policy attempt in the European Parliament.