Karabakh: Russian-Armenian oligarch Vardanyan defends Moscow's 'peacemaking' role
He is minister of the Armenian separatist enclave in Azerbaijani territory. Critic of the premier of Yerevan, Nikol Pašinyan. He wants a broader mandate for Russian peacekeeping troops. According to Baku, his are 'fantasies and illusions'. According to Azerbaijan, Putin's soldiers can stay until 2025 at the latest.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Russian-Armenian oligarch Ruben Vardanyan (see photo), "minister of state" of the unrecognised republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, intervened during a television link-up with Yerevan to defend Russia's peacekeeping forces. The Russian contingent is criticised by Armenia for not preventing the closure of the Lachin corridor by Azerbaijan.
The billionaire renounced his Russian citizenship to hold public office in Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh, the Armenian separatist enclave that Azerbaijanis call Khankendi.
In his opinion, 'the road in the Lachin corridor must be unblocked by the leaders of all states and societies where common sense prevails'. The task of the Armenians must be to support the Russian peacemakers, 'to make them feel that they are playing an important role here, and we Armenians are not against them, we feel them on our side'. Vardanyan is urging everyone to stop criticising Russia in this situation, 'because otherwise you play into the hands of the Azeris'.
The presence of the Russians is the only guarantee for the Karabakh Armenians: 'If they weren't here, we wouldn't be here any more either', so it must be ensured that they remain in place in the long term, strengthening their positions.
Vardanyan assures that this is the position shared by the 'Artsakh government', according to which the mandate given to the Russian peacekeepers is 'too limited', and allows for a presence 'in a reduced format'. The task of the Armenian citizens of Karabakh is to 'unite to defend their territory, and not just to attract the attention of the whole world'.
Vardanyan is highly critical of the government in Yerevan, and of Prime Minister Nikol Pašinyan, who for days has been repeating his call for the Russians to take responsibility for pushing Baku to reopen the connection between Artsakh and Armenia. The oligarch, on the other hand, assures that he trusts in the support 'of the entire civilised world'.
In fact, he is the spokesman for his fellow citizens, expressing the conviction 'that in all normal countries it is considered unacceptable that 120,000 people remain in winter without electricity, heating, food and medicine', trusting in all people of goodwill who 'live and govern in Armenia and the entire world'.
Vardanyan's positions are criticised harshly by the Azerbaijani side, as Akper Gasanov writes in Zerkalo. Baku considers them "fantasies and illusions", when even Armenia, according to the agreements of the Prague meeting, "has recognised the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, including the economic province of Karabakh, of which Khankendi is also a part", and one must stop "talking about the fictitious Artsakh, recognised by no one", on whose territory the same politician-oligarch would be "illegally".
According to Azerbaijanis, 'Armenia is not able to guarantee its security on its own' and depends on Russia in everything, as it cannot express its own foreign policy line, so 'it is ridiculous to start making a list of normal and uncivil countries'.
Among Vardanyan's assertions, surprising Azerbaijani commentators are those about the 'road of life', which allows 'at least some medicine and some food' to pass, without specifying which route he is talking about.
According to Gasanov, 'this character who has decided to play big politics is simply drowning in the waves of his own lies', when he is merely 'an emissary of Moscow'.
According to the Azerbaijani version, it is the Russians themselves who are blocking the Lachin corridor, 'preventing Azerbaijani ecologists from accessing the Gyzylbulag gold mine and the Demirl copper mine, looted by Karabakh separatists'.
The Azerbaijanis are willing to extend the agreement with the Russian peacekeepers 'until 2025, and not for decades as Vardanyan claims', whose role in the affair, and in Armenian politics as a whole, is yet to be defined.