Work at the Lachin Corridor's Azerbaijani checkpoint

Azerbaijani ‘Activists’ End Blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh

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Azerbaijani self-proclaimed environmental activists on May 1 ended their 4-1/2 month demonstration on the Lachin-Stepanakert road, thus lifting the blockade of the road which connects Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia.

The blockade became redundant after Azerbaijan installed a border checkpoint at the opposite end of the road on April 23.

Azerbaijani media reported on April 28 that the activists decided to temporarily suspend their demonstration following a meeting with Aydin Karimov, the Azerbaijani president’s special representative in Shusha. Karimov reportedly asked them to disperse since “a new situation has emerged” following the checkpoint’s installation.

The blockade began on December 12, when the self-styled environmental activists began a sit-in protest on the road near Shusha, a town in the Azerbaijan-controlled part of Nagorno-Karabakh. The activists, whose composition changed regularly over the course of the blockade, said they were protesting against the exploitation of natural resources in Nagorno-Karabakh by the de facto Armenian authorities and their transportation to Armenia.

Though the Azerbaijani government claimed it had no links to the protesters, the blockade was clearly part of a broader strategy to make life difficult for the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh. It prevented most Armenians from being able to travel in or out of the territory and greatly reduced the flow of goods there, driving up prices.

Neither the blockade nor the establishment of the checkpoint were impeded by the Russian peacekeepers, who are supposed to be the sole providers of security on the road under the peace deal that ended the 2020 Second Karabakh War.

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A few hours after announcing their decision, the eco-activists released a statement praising the checkpoint. “This decisive step aimed at preventing illegality in the territories of Azerbaijan means that the participants of the demonstration have partially achieved their goals.”

It went on: “We declare that our demands that the command of the peacekeeping contingent stop the illegal exploitation of mineral deposits in the territories of Azerbaijan where the Russian peacekeeping contingent is temporarily located and ensure the monitoring of environmental and other consequences remain in effect, and that if these demands are not met, we reserve the right to resume the demonstration!”

Meanwhile, Azerbaijani media published footage from the newly established checkpoint at the border, which purports to show Armenian citizens going through passport control and having their vehicles examined.

(This article originally appeared on the website eurasianet.org on May 1.)

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