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Samson Martirosyan

Azerbaijan Sends "Eco-Activists” to Block Nagorno-Karabakh Lifeline

At the time of publication, the only road linking Nagorno-Karabakh and its 120,000 residents to the outside world has been blocked for more than 24 hours.

On December 12, a group of Azerbaijanis launched a demonstration on the road near the town of Shushi, now under Azerbaijani control. The self-proclaimed “environmental activists” closed the road, scuffled with Russian peacekeepers, and set up tents. Azerbaijani pro-government and state news media were present at the demonstration and extensively covered it.

As a result, Nagorno-Karabakh was cut off from Armenia for the second time in nine days without any intervention from Russian peacekeepers.

Shortly after the demonstration started and videos of the standoff circulated on the web, it was revealed that many Azerbaijani “activists” were not environmentalists at all.

One of them was identified as Telman Qasimov, an Azerbaijani army reserve captain turned pro-Aliyev political analyst. He was spotted at the protest and assumed a leadership role in it. Qasimov boasted about his participation in the protest on Facebook. His page is full of photos showing him wearing a military uniform sporting patches of the Grey Wolves Turkish neo-fascist far-right organization.

Qasimov also posted a picture of him with Azerbaijani Officer Ramil Safarov, who axed an Armenian Army Lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan to death in his sleep at a NATO PfP training session in 2004. Safarov was later proclaimed a hero of Azerbaijan by President Ilham Aliyev.

Qasimov speaks fluent Armenian. In an incident revealing his racist prejudice towards Armenians, he addressed one of Russian peacekeepers in Armenian, assuming the peacekeeper was ethnically Armenian by the size and shape of his nose.

Another protester was identified as Azerbaijani soldier Adil Heyderli, who posted videos and went live on his TikTok where he tested the Russian peacekeepers’ patience by staring them right in the eyes from close distance. This an activity many at the protest seem to like.

He was spotted displaying the fascist Grey Wolves hand sign.

Many of the “environmental activists” at the protest displayed the Grey Wolves hand sign and were pretty open about their affiliation with the organization. While not all are official members of the  Grey Wolves, most support its genocidal ideology and hate towards all minorities of the Ottoman Empire, including Armenians.

There is plenty of evidence based on openly available data that the Azerbaijani government is behind the protests.

Armenians on social media identified other “activists” and leaders of Azerbaijani non-profits sponsored by the Azerbaijani government (aka GONGOs) who blocked the road.

No food, medicine, necessary supplies and emergency care from the outside is available to Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh. Ombudsperson of Nagorno-Karabakh Gegham Stepanyan addressed humanitarian issues in a short video message on his Twitter and called on his international partners to address them.

Armenia’s Human Rights defender Kristinne Grigoryan said we are seeing another humanitarian crisis in the making and that it “shouldn’t be tolerated as the new normal”. According to information provided by her office, more than 1,000 people are stuck on the road from both sides, including children and the elderly. The lives of several critically ill patients at a hospital in Nagorno-Karabakh are under serious threat.

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius tweeted about the incident today and said the conflict may be entering a dangerous new phase.

However, most international mainstream news media have paid little or no attention to the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Armenian MFA issued a statement today saying Azerbaijan has violated the 2020 November 9 Trilateral Statement and its obligation to “guarantee safe movement of citizens, vehicles and cargo in both directions along the Lachin corridor”.

Nagorno-Karabakh authorities held a Security Council meeting today and said they were going to send a letter to the head of Russian peacekeeping operation.

EU's lead spokesperson said "the EU is aware of the various developments taking place around the Lachin Corridor". 

The EU today reported it is not going to extend the mandate of the forty-member civilian border monitoring mission dispatched to Armenia in October. Earlier, French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna said the EU observation mission’s mandate in Armenia needs to be extended. 

At the time of publication, no substantial statements have been made by the U.S. or Russia.

Armenian political analysts have been calling on their international partners to speak out about Azerbaijan’s policy of ethnic cleansing and continuing terror of the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh.


The first time the road was closed on December 3, when a group of Azerbaijani “activists” had tried to enter parts of Nagorno-Karabakh for environmental monitoring at Base Metals mines in Drmbon & Kashen villages, which they claim were illegal mining operations. Then, after negotiations, an agreement was reached and the road was shortly opened.

After the first incident the Head of Russian peacekeeping troops in Nagorno-Karabakh Volkov said Azerbaijan is going to set up a checkpoint at Lachin Corridor. Nagorno-Karabakh Securit Service said the statement was not true and that no such agreement was reached. Volkov later clarified saying they were considering installing X-Ray scanners. Russia's inactions to prevent the blockade has been criticized among Armenian public.


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