Since December 12 of the last year Azerbaijani eco-activists and NGO representatives have started the protest on the Lachin-Khankandi road, in the city of Shusha.
Eco-activists and NGO representatives are protesting against the illegal exploitation of mineral resources, especially "Gizilbulag" gold and "Demirli" copper-molybdenum deposits in Karabakh, in the areas which are under temporary control of Russian peacekeepers, with the action on Lachin-Khankandi road.
The Azerbaijani community rightfully objects to the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the region under its jurisdiction, recognized by the international community as the territory of Azerbaijan, and their transportation to Armenia.
It is not a coincidence that on December 28, 2022, Base Metals company, illegally operating in areas that are under temporary control of Russian peacekeepers, getting income by transporting precious and non-ferrous metals extracted from Gizilbulag and Demirli fields to Armenia, under the influence of the action, announced that it has frozen mining activity.
Of course, it was an example of the successful implementation of one of the many goals of environmental action.
However, the purpose and aim of the ecological action have large scale and have been accounted for preventing illegalities that may occur until the peacekeeping contingent to leave the region in 2025.
Particularly, as Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov noted a few days before, contradictory with the trilateral agreement on November 9, 2020, the non-complete removal of Armenian military units from the territory under the control of peacekeepers, implementation of rotation of Armenian military personnel, mines from Armenia, etc. against the background of the transportation of military goods, the urgency of applying the control mechanisms of the state authorities of Azerbaijan to the Lachin road emerges.
Moreover, one of the elements of the ecological action is the fulfillment of the rightful demands of Azerbaijan regarding the creation of conditions for full monitoring and inspection in the sovereign territories of Azerbaijan under the temporary control of Russian peacekeepers.
We should not forget that the obstacle to establishing the joint monitoring of the "Gizilbulag" and "Demirli" deposits by the employees of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, the State Service on Property Issues under the Ministry of Economy and AzerGold Closed Joint Stock Company in early December 2022 was the sparkle to start the environmental protest action.
One of the main demands of action for Azerbaijan is to carry out full monitoring and inspection of its territory.
Another of the factors igniting the action is the visit of the Armenian businessman Ruben Vardanyan, who has been doing business in Russia for many years, and whose name is involved in several financial crimes and machinations. Ruben Vardanyan's illegal visit and stay in Karabakh led the situation in the region to become tense rather than stabilizing, and the Armenians living there have already understood this.
It is not a secret that Vardanyan, sent to the region under the instructions of some foreign circles and for his ambitions, has become a serious obstacle to the peace process. In fact, his main mission is to prevent the reintegration of the Armenian population living in Karabakh into Azerbaijan.
The provocative statements made during his stay in Karabakh were calculated to disrupt the dialogue and atmosphere of trust arising between Baku and Karabakh Armenians. However, everyone understands that these areas can develop only together with Azerbaijan. Today, the territories under the temporary control of the Russian military are unsuitable for cultivation, and in terms of logistics, it is impossible to develop without access to Central government of Azerbaijan. The policy of Vardanyan, who understands these factors well, is directed to keep the local population as hostages. For this purpose, Vardanyan resorts to different manipulations.
For example, although the environmental action is presented as a "blockade," it is a game created by Vardanyan, and the Armenian population still suffers from it.
The Azerbaijani side has repeatedly told the International Committee of the Red Cross that if the population of Khankandi needs food, it can be supplied from Tartar and Barda. But the Armenian side does not agree since Vardanyan needs images of artificial "scarcity" and "empty counters" for his blockade show.
Also, some pro-Armenian media organs and politicians in Europe are used as a means to reinforce false information about “blockage” and “starvation”.
But everyone should understand that attempts to pressure Azerbaijan regarding the Lachin-Shusha road on most different levels— political-diplomatic, by parliaments international organizations and etc. will not have any effect. Neither U.S State Secretary Antony Blinken's phone call, nor European Parliament’s Resolution, nor fake video reports about “blockage” in Karabakh will change the situation.
Until demands are not fulfilled, and processes are not fully reached their logical end, the environmental protest action on Shusha— Lachin-Khankandi road will continue.
Head of Atlas Research Center, political scientist Elkhan Sahinoglu also thinks that pressures on Azerbaijan regarding the protest action held by eco-activist on the Lachin-Khankandi road won’t have any effect.
Political scientist believes that U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken's phone call to Baku, resolutions adopted in the French parliament as well as the last resolution of the European Parliament will not change the situation.
Stressing that the protest action will continue until the demands are met, according to Elkhan Sahinoglu, in order to stop the protest action, first of all, Ruben Vardanyan should leave Azerbaijan, and conditions should be created for the monitoring of mineral deposits in the territories of Azerbaijan under the temporary control of Russia, and control mechanisms of Azerbaijan's Lachin road should be provided.
Political scientist believes that sending Ruben Vardanyan from Moscow to Khankandi in September of the last year made the situation in the region even more complicated.
"After Vardanyan's coming to power, within 5 months, he makes statements and gives interviews against Azerbaijan and calls Azerbaijan the enemy. If earlier the Azerbaijani side had certain contacts with the Karabakh Armenians, he also prevented this. That is, this person is the biggest obstacle to the peace process. And now, through the Armenian lobby and its patrons, he spreads provocative, false news that supposedly the road is closed, they are dying of hunger, and there is a food shortage. However, the road is open and vehicles are working. They simply cannot clearly carry military ammunition. In terms of this, surely, the most optimal option is Vardanyan's leaving the region. Because this person has nothing to do with Karabakh. He was not born in Karabakh and he came to aggravate the situation. Moreover, he makes several interviews against us and voices thoughts against Azerbaijan. Therefore, the most optimal option is for him to leave the region," said Elkhan Sahinoglu.
He considers Vardanya's statement that he will stay in Karabakh until the end as nonsense.
"Vardanyan said that he will stay in Karabakh until the end, but this is impossible. Because The stay of the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Karabakh will end in two years, and Azerbaijan will take the last steps toward the complete disarmament of the separatists there and the full restoration of Azerbaijan's sovereignty in Karabakh. At that time, there will be two options. President Ilham Aliyev also said this: either they will accept our laws and live, and those who do not accept our laws will have to leave Azerbaijan. It is clear that Vardanyan can not stay in Azerbaijan, because he may continue his separatist activity. In terms of this, Vardanyan cannot resist this process. The only option for Vardanyan will be to leave Azerbaijan. It is true he has been also deprived of Russian citizenship right now, he has bank accounts in Western countries. He can choose any country and go," said the politician.