Center for National and International Studies
“… I do not want Russian soldiers on my soil ….”
The central topic of FB concerns the statement of the three key leaders – Putin, Aliyev and Pashinian – about the ceasefire, met with mixed feelings – happiness at peace, but shock and disappointment at the entrance of Russian peacekeeping troops, discussion of its possible consequences for the future of the conflict and the country, a strongly negative reaction to the Russian troops presence on the part of all the leading political and civil forces. The FB community shares reactions to the ceasefire statement and power crisis in Armenia, events in the parliament and pressure of opposition on premier Pashinian.
The e-media and FB community have been discussing the ceasefire agreement signed by the three leaders – Aliyev of Azerbaijan, Putin of Russia and Pashinian of Armenia. Osmangizi TV has analysed the text and provisions of the statement with the military expert Fahmin Hajiyev, who classified them in the context of national interests. He expressed his concern at the lack of guaranteed provisions for the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the rest of the occupied territories, no mention of Turkish participation, and introduction of the Russian peacekeeping forces. The FB community also shares the statement of Pashinian before his people on FB, where he confesses that the content of the signed ceasefire agreement is “incredibly hard” for him and his people. The FB community shares the text of the agreement, which provides for 1) a complete ceasefire from 10th November 2) the return of Agdam and Gazakh regions to Azerbaijan by 20th November 3) Russian peacekeeping forces to be located around Nagorno Karabagh – 1960 armed troops and 90 armoured vehicles, together with 380 units of special and automotive technical equipment 4) peacekeeping forces to be located simultaneously with the withdrawal of Armenian forces and to last for 5 years with a possible extension, unless one of the parties expresses its interest in termination 6 months in advance 5) a Monitoring Centre for the control of the ceasefire to be formed 6) the return of the Kalbajar region by 15th November, while by 1st December – the Lachin region, leaving a corridor of 5 km width which will connect Armenia with NK and will not touch Shusha – the new road to be built there with the Russian peacekeeping contingent 7) IDPs are returned to NK and surrounding regions under the auspices of the UNHCR 8) Exchange of POWs, hostages, and corpses 9) The communication and transportation routes to be all opened in the region, the Republic of Armenia to provide for the transportation route between the Western regions of Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan under the control of the border troops of FSB of Russia.
The FB community reports protests in Armenia in reaction to the agreement, and “lynching” of the speaker of the Parliament Ararat Mirzoyan. The worried FB community comments on contradictory reports as to whether Russia will be the only one participating in the ceasefire. They refer to the statement by K. Kochachov, chair of the International Affairs Committee at the Russian Federation Council, who said that the peacekeeping mission will be implemented only by Russia. The FB community shares news about instability in Yerevan in reaction to the joint statement, disturbances in the parliament, rallies in the streets, as well as a FB status of Pashinian that he was robbed after his house was attacked by the angry crowd upon the announcement of the statement. The journalists, activists, and bloggers comment on the ceasefire agreement. One leading comment states that Azerbaijani soldiers gave their lives, yet the winner is Russia. “We almost believed Ilham Aliyev, that the agreement would express people’s will.” He calls it a real tragedy – not only bringing them back, but also to present it as a victory to people. Another argues that “I do not want Russian soldiers on my soil … because I know that democratic Elchibey was overthrown because of making them withdraw, and if tomorrow there will be another Elchibey striving to integrate Azerbaijan in Europe, the Russian peacekeepers will transfer control of those towns to Armenia and will undermine the power of that leader. And if that leader will try to prevent it, Russia will declare that Azerbaijan is attacking peacekeepers and will impose the Georgia scenario on Azerbaijan. In other words, Ivan, go back home. Azerbaijan without Russia.” The popular journalist Evez Zeynalli posts the article “Why? Why? Why should Russia return to Azerbaijan lands???” The economist Azer Mehdiyev notes that in the ceasefire statement Armenia does not recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, there is nothing about withdrawal of the armed forces from Nagorno Karabagh, the conflict has been frozen again, and that this agreement means the return of the Russian army to Azerbaijan.
The IDPs and refugees from the occupied regions continue to comment on the state of their liberated hometowns and villages. The prominent civil and political leader, economist Gubad Ibadoglu, posted photos and a video of his newly liberated home village, where there was nothing left of his family’s 2-storey house, nor any trace of his father’s grave on the destroyed cemetery, the gravestones of which were used for building trenches by Armenian troops.
The FB community shares the statement by the wife of Pashinian addressing people and advising them not to worry and that troops are in their place fighting, as “we will not give our lands to Turks”.
The Azadlyg newspaper writes about the controversy of the issue of withdrawal from Kelbajar and Lachin, as the head of the monastery in Kelbajar said in the Sputnik, it will remain in the hands of Armenians and that settlers of Lachin and Kelbajar regions should not hurry to leave the regions. The FB users share the acknowledgement by Pashinian that his biggest mistake was to give away Agdam, Lachin and Kelbajar, as well as the news that 200 people were detained in Yerevan. The conflict resolution and ICG expert Zaur Shiriyev, in his interview to Meydan TV, stressed that the main problem is not the entrance of the Russian peacekeepers but the absence of their mandate, which is usually given by the UNSC. The FB community also discusses the parliamentary meeting in Yerevan on the cancellation of the ceasefire agreement. They share the news that the commander of the Russian peacekeepers, Rustam Muradov, is a military from Daghestan of either Azerbaijani or a local origin, and a hero of Russian Federation, who fought in Chechnya and Syria. Natig Jafarli calls the national army to be alarmed, because if the Armenians indeed do leave Agdam, Kelbajar and Lachin regions by 1st December, they will as usual mine the lands, poison the water reservoirs and food products. He also mentions that if the country decides to get rid of the peacekeepers after 5 years, it will have to declare it 6 months before the end of this term, which coincides with the parliamentary and presidential elections, creating high risks for domestic politics and institution-building.
Reaction of political parties and civil society leaders
Ali Karimli of the Popular Front stated that “the return of the Russian troops under the disguise of peacekeeping troops contradicts Azerbaijan’s national interests.” He stresses that there should be a multilateral neutral peacekeeping contingent. Arif Hajili of the Musavat party stated that “the location of Russian troops in Azerbaijan contradicts the Azerbaijani constitution, and that there is nothing about Turkish peacekeepers in the text of the ceasefire agreement”. The National Council of Democratic Forces issued a protest against the location of Russian armed forces on Azerbaijan territory. The statement says that NCDF categorically protests the location of Russian military bases in violation of Azerbaijan sovereignty, which was done without taking into account the position and interests of Azerbaijan people, seeing in this “the actual creation of a Russian military base in Azerbaijan” and thus leaving the region of Nagorno-Karabagh under occupation for the uncertain period.
Jamil Hasanli of the National Council of Democratic Forces considers that the provision about the return of Russian troops is the main problem of this peace agreement. While the president claims it puts a full-stop on this conflict, in fact it is comma, which opens many other risks in it. He notes the positive sides of the statement, such as Armenia’s withdrawal from all the occupied territories, and the opening of the corridor to Nakhichevan, but that there are still unresolved risks for the country’s security. This includes the retaining of self-defence forces of Nagorno-Karabagh on this territory. Will these arrangements promote the establishment of administrative control of Baku over all its territory? Regarding Russia’s peacekeepers, he stresses that while Russia was not involved directly in the conflict, all the weapons of the Armenian army were transferred for free from Russia. The other negative moment is defined as the preservation of the conflict as a means of Russia’s influence in the region, as there are lands within the country which will be under control of the foreign forces. The third problem is not mentioning Turkey’s role in the document. If in the nearest future the defense agreement of Azerbaijan with Turkey is not signed, then the “peacekeeping mission” of Russia would have a very high cost for Azerbaijan. The last, but the hardest moment of the agreement is bringing back Russian forces, which were so successfully withdrawn at high cost in 1993. “Does the country or Aliyev’s family need it? he concludes.
Sabir Bagirov, the ex-director of the National Oil Company in the times of Elchibey, currently the head of an NGO, highly critically assesses the Russian peacekeeping mission.
Azer Gasimli stresses that signed at night, and secretly from people, the agreement replaces Armenian troops by the Russian army, which is behind them. He reminds that it was with the direct participation of the Russian army that people from Kelbajar, Khojali were killed and expelled in the early 90s. and that many issues of the governance and administrative control remain open, because Armenia did not recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and NKAR remains in place. The REAL party in its statement noted a few negative provisions of this agreement, among them – according to Azerbaijani law – the entrance of the Russian peacekeepers in the country is not possible without the supporting decision of the parliament, otherwise it is considered foreign occupation. Ilkin Rustamzade, the youth leader, argued that during 250 years of recent Russia history, the first one to violate its agreements was Russia herself. He states that Russians, who are peacekeepers, do not exist.” We wanted to liberate 20% from one occupation, but gave 100% to the bigger occupant instead!”.
Former foreign minister Tofig Zulfugarov states that there is a basis for concern, as there is a compromise of Azerbaijan’s sovereignty in exchange for peace, as well as the decision of the arrival of peace keeping troops to the country, based on a trilateral statement, lacks legitimacy because it was not sanctioned by the UNSC. The ADR leader Gubad Ibadoglu comments, that the war was won by Azerbaijanis, lost by Armenians, but the ultimate benefactor is Russia, as the location of Russian troops on Azerbaijan territory is the worst-case scenario for Azerbaijan.
The feminist leader Rabiyya Mammadova states that under no condition should Russian troops be allowed on Azerbaijan territory.
Gunel Movlud, a female writer in exile, argues that the worst peace is better than the best war. The most important thing is to shut down the warfare, to persuade people to start talking. She expressed her hope that they would understand the importance of peace in Armenia too. She regrets about Russian peacekeepers, commenting that even in a much weaker condition Azerbaijan managed to get rid of all Russian troops in 1993. But Turkey’s agreement to it means that Azerbaijan did not have another option. She urges the 3 SC states to unite and live in peace with each other, otherwise they will never get rid of the influence of the regional powers, and people should not forget that it was with the agreement of Turkey that 2000 Russian armed troops settle in Azerbaijan. Gultakin Hajibeyli the female politician of NCDF stated that after the arrival of Russian peacekeepers Azerbaijan will have lost all its sovereign rights over Karabagh. All of activists, journalists, bloggers ask the same question: “Why are the Russian troops, which Elchibey – at the cost of his power – pushed out of his country, being invited back?
Eldar Namazov, the former advisor to the president, argues that the struggle for territorial integrity is not over, but this is the end of the military stage, and the new one – political and diplomatic – is starting. He considers that 90% of the objective has been achieved, and the statement is a success, so the rest is a matter of politics and will be reflected in more specific documents, as all conditions have been agreed upon. He argues that in spite of its military victories, Armenia’s major problem was that she could not legitimize them in 30 years, while Azerbaijan has strengthened itself as a state. He stresses that legitimization of the military gains of Azerbaijan this time is very important. The human rights defender Fuad Hasanov considers the control over the Lachin corridor a “time bomb”, but this time the cancer will give a more serious metastasis. Seymur Hezi of the PFP considers that the very expression “Russian peacekeepers” is contradictory. He suspects that yesterday’s hitting the helicopter was an operation to enforce Azerbaijan for peace. The investigative journalist Khadija Ismayil argues that Russian peacekeepers is an oxymoron: there is no place under any conditions for Russian unilateral presence in Karabagh and once she is in, she will never leave, and that is why the multilateral forces are important. The leader of the Law and Justice Party Ali Insanov argues that Russian peacekeepers will as usual undoubtedly defend the interests of Armenian party, so he suggests placing Turkish military bases in Nakhichevan and in Karabagh. Earlier the idea of Turkish military bases in Shusha was also voiced by Eldar Namazov. The political activist in exile Ramiz Yunus compares the agreement with the Munich Agreement/Betrayal in 1938 with Hitler and that could not prevent WW2 which started a year later.
Human rights. Meydan TV reports the case of the wounded soldier from Balakan, who was rejected compensation by the local bureaucrat, with reference to aid for the wounded not being assigned by decree. The FB community decries the decision of the Supreme Court on 11.11. 2020 which upheld the previous decision which was made in 2013 to expropriate the property of the opposition politician Gultekin Hajibeyli based on fake witness claims.
Relations with Turkey. The FB community quotes Turkey’s Parliament speaker Mustafa Shentop, that the tragic page of Azerbaijan history has finished with its victory and raising the flag back in Karabagh. They are also sharing the defence minister Hulusi Akar’s statement about Azerbaijan’s victory and the Armenian army’s withdrawal from all the regions, including Nagorno Karabagh. The news of a meeting of the three officials of Turkey – foreign minister Chavushoglu, defence minister Akar and National Intelligence Agency’s Fidan – which took place with president Aliyev in Baku has also been widely shared.
Relations with Russia. The major political and civil organizations negatively assess the reassigning of Russian peacekeeping forces back into the country. FB reported an official apology of the Azerbaijani foreign ministry for hitting the Russian helicopter calling it “accidental”. FB reports that immediately after the statement on the ceasefire, the first group of Russian peacekeepers were brought by IL-76 plane to Karabagh. FB quotes Dmitri Peskov, observing that there is nothing about Turkish participation in the peacekeeping mission, that it was not a subject of the talks between the three parties, and that there is no agreement about sending Turkish troops to Karabagh. The FB users share and comment with indignation the statement of the Azerbaijani ambassador to Russia, Polad Bul-bul oglu, that there will not be Turkish peacekeepers in Karabagh. They also comment on Vladimir Jirinovski’s statement on the Russian TV channel 1 that Russian peacekeepers will stay in Azerbaijan forever. They quote the Russian political commentator and historian Alexander Sytin: “Russia has stolen the victory of Azerbaijan, but from the political point of view has lost the country forever. While people celebrate the agreement now, later they would understand the truth”. FB shares photos of the Russian peacekeeping forces settling at their posts in the Lachin region. The threat by the vice speaker of the Russian Duma, Peter Tolstoy, that if anything happens to the Russian forces Azerbaijan would face the fate of Georgia in 2008, is widely shared with indignation and comments by FB users, with one of the activists comparing his behavior to that of a street hooligan, rather than of a vice-speaker.
November 13, 2020