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Artsakh Government Update | Day 135 Under Blockade

Artsakh Government Update | Day 135 Under Blockade
Tuesday, 25 April, 2023, 20:30

Bulletin | No.59 | 21-25.04.2023
Daily Update
Azerbaijan blocked the Hakari bridge on the border of Artsakh and Armenia
1. The Azerbaijani side closes Hakari Bridge on Artsakh-Armenia border, located within the Russian peacekeeping troops' responsibility area, and starts construction of a checkpoint.

The Azerbaijani side has once again grossly violated the provisions of the 2020 Tripartite Declaration and is continuously spreading misinformation about the transfer of weapons from Armenia to Artsakh. They have now closed the Hakari Bridge located in the "Lachin Corridor" on the Artsakh-Armenia border, which falls under the responsibility area of the Russian peacekeeping troops.

Prior to that, the Azerbaijani side launched a false information campaign, preparing the ground for new provocations against the Republic of Artsakh.

On April 22, the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan spread misinformation that a military truck of the Azerbaijani army allegedly exploded in the Shushi area on mines installed by the Armenian side. This statement was preceded by another message containing disinformation, which stated that ammunition was allegedly delivered from Armenia to Artsakh accompanied by Russian peacekeepers.

President of the Artsakh Republic Arayik Harutyunyan convened an urgent meeting of the Security Council. All members of the Security Council unanimously adopted a statement, which reads:

"We consider the blocking of the Lachin corridor linking Artsakh with Armenia, which is in the area of responsibility of the Russian peacekeeping contingent, and the deployment of a checkpoint there by Azerbaijan on April 23, to be absolutely unacceptable. By taking this step, the people of Artsakh have become hostages in the hands of Azerbaijan, with an increasing risk of ethnic cleansing, and the further activities of the trilateral statement are under serious threat.

We appeal to the parties of the trilateral statement, and especially to the Russian Federation, to immediately begin discussions around lifting the blockade of Artsakh, preventing the installation of the Azerbaijani checkpoint, and providing real guarantees for the security of the people of Artsakh.

We expect effective steps to be taken in the shortest possible time to solve the security and humanitarian problems that have arisen for the people of Artsakh. The absence of such steps will allow the authorities and the people of Artsakh to decide their further actions."
2. Foreign Ministry Issues Statement on Azerbaijani Checkpoint in Lachin Corridor

The statement says:

“Azerbaijan's actions aimed at establishing control over the Lachin Corridor are in direct contradiction to paragraph 6 of the Trilateral Statement of 9 November 2020. The signature of the President of Azerbaijan under the Trilateral Statement is a direct and unequivocal consent of the state of Azerbaijan to transfer exclusive control over the Lachin Corridor to the Russian peacekeeping forces.

Since the establishment of the ceasefire in 2020, Azerbaijan has repeatedly violated almost all provisions of the Trilateral Statement. However, the official statement of the Azerbaijani side about setting up a checkpoint indicates Baku's intention to abandon their obligations assumed by this document.

We expect an unequivocal and adequate response and effective measures both from the wider international community, signatories of the Trilateral Statement and, first of all, the Russian Federation as the guarantor of the implementation of the Statement, to prevent the installation of the Azerbaijani checkpoint, to unblock the Lachin Corridor and ensure the physical security of the people of Artsakh and the implementation of the obligations undertaken by Azerbaijan under the Trilateral Statement.

We demand that the member states of the UN Security Council implement their obligations under the UN Charter and international law and put an end to Azerbaijan's criminal policy of ethnic cleansing of Artsakh and destruction of its people.”
3. Torchlight procession dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide held in Stepanakert

On April 23, on the eve of the Armenian Genocide Memorial Day, a traditional torchlight procession took place in Stepanakert.

This year the torchlight procession took place on the initiative of the ARF Artsakh Youth Union with the slogan "Remember the past, protect the future". It started from St. Hagop Church in Stepanakert.

After holding a memorial ceremony, Priest Minas Movsisyan led the participants of the torch to the Stepanakert Memorial Complex. As they marched, they carried the flags of both Armenian states and were accompanied by Armenian national music. At the Zangakatun memorial within the complex, which honors the victims of the Armenian Genocide, the participants of the torch paid tribute.
4. President of Artsakh Issues Message on 108th Anniversary of Armenian Genocide

Every year on April 24, we nationally remember and commemorate the innocent victims of the Armenian Genocide, our 1.5 million holy martyrs who fell victim to the Turkish yataghan just because they were Armenians.

This monstrous crime against humanity has no statute of limitations. And until it is recognized and condemned by the entire civilized world, we may witness new manifestations of it in the whole world.

Today, Artsakh is facing new and real dangers of the Turkish-Azerbaijani anti-Armenian and genocidal policy. 108 years after the Genocide, Armenians continue to wage an existential struggle to live freely and independently in their homeland, to protect their rights and freedoms, national interest and dignity.

By keeping the 120,000 civilian population of Artsakh, tens of thousands of children and the elderly under blockade for 134 days, violating all the norms and principles of international law, ignoring appeals of the international community and the decision of the UN International Court of Justice, the dictatorial authorities of Azerbaijan are trying to force our people to knees.

However, we are adamant and determined to keep Artsakh always Armenian and unassailable. We have no alternative. Armenians cannot lose their homeland again, become an exile and scatter around the world. We must learn from the past and jointly build the future of the Armenian people, today and here.

The moment is fateful, there is a question of existence not only for Artsakh, but also for the Armenian statehood. Today more than ever we need to turn words into action. It is the moment of national responsibility, dignity, and demand to stand by Artsakh and prevent new national tragedies and failures.

Therefore, relying on the Motherland, the world-wide Armenians and foreign friends, we ask and urge all organizations and compassionate persons to use all possible toolkits in defense of the people of Artsakh, for the sake of Armenian national interests and universal human values.

May God protect the Armenian nation!”
5. Arayik Harutyunyan paid tribute to the memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide

On April 24th, the president of Artsakh, Arayik Harutyunyan, along with other high-ranking officials, visited the Stepanakert Memorial Complex to lay a wreath at the monument dedicated to the victims of the the Armenian Genocide.
6. Representatives of the Energy Sector Sound the Alarm as Water Levels in Sarsang Drop Unprecedentedly

On January 9th, Azerbaijan damaged a high-voltage power transmission line that runs from Armenia to Artsakh, in the Agavno-Berdzor section that is currently under Azerbaijani control. Engineers from Artsakh Energo have been prevented from accessing the area to repair the damage. This has exacerbated the ongoing energy crisis in the region, which has already been worsened by the Azerbaijani blockade of the only gas pipeline that supplies Artsakh since March 21st.

Currently, the hydroelectric power station of the Sarsang reservoir is the main local supplier of electricity. However, due to high consumption and low rainfall, the water level in Sarsang has dropped to an unprecedentedly low level. As of now, there is only 100 million cubic meters of water in the reservoir, which has a capacity of 600 million cubic meters. About 70% of the remaining water is in the dead volume, which cannot be used to generate electricity. The volume of water is decreasing rapidly, and once it drops below a certain level, it will be impossible to operate the Sarsang hydroelectric power plant safely, and even the minimum energy needs of the population of Artsakh cannot be met.

It is important to note that the energy crisis in Artsakh is causing a humanitarian catastrophe, with rolling blackouts affecting the daily lives of the population.
7. Partial Resumption of Planned Surgeries in Artsakh to Address Acute Surgical Cases and Avoid Complications
Due to the closure of the Lachin corridor by Azerbaijan, there have been difficulties in ensuring the normal supply of medicines and medical equipment in Artsakh. As a result, all planned surgeries were suspended, leading to the cancellation of approximately 1,140 operations.

On the 131st day of the blockade, the Ministry of Health decided to partially resume planned surgeries to prevent further complications in acute surgical cases. However, due to the limited availability of medicines and medical equipment, only cases with a clear risk of complications will be prioritized for surgical intervention.

Despite the efforts of the Artsakh healthcare system, many residents of Artsakh have been deprived of necessary medical services due to the Azerbaijani blockade. Only patients who require medical procedures that cannot be performed in Artsakh due to a lack of equipment and facilities are transported to Armenia through the mediation of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

It is important to note the ongoing humanitarian crisis caused by the blockade, which is affecting the health and well-being of the population in Artsakh.
8. The Artsakh State Minister has urged civil servants to contribute a portion of their income to the government's off-budget account, in order to provide assistance to fellow citizens who are in need.

After more than four months of blockade, Artsakh is facing serious social problems. Thousands of people are struggling to make ends meet due to a lack of income. Despite the state's efforts to address the urgent social needs of the population, the crisis situation has overwhelmed the government's limited capabilities.

To encourage mutual assistance among citizens, the State Minister urged individuals who receive salaries from the state budget or have sufficient financial resources to follow his example and donate part of their income to the off-budget account of the Government of the Republic of Artsakh.

President Araik Harutyunyan embraced this initiative and donated his salary for the current month to the off-budget account. The funds collected will be used by the Ministry of Social Development and Migration of the Republic of Artsakh, which has established mechanisms to provide financial assistance based on an assessment of the needs of families or individuals in need.
9. Foreign Minister of Artsakh Meets with Head of the Republicans Group of the French Senate

On 24 April, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Artsakh Sergey Ghazaryan met in Yerevan with a delegation led by Bruno Retailleau, leader of the majority Republicans Group of the French Senate and Chairman of the Senate Group on Raising International Awareness of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The sides discussed the humanitarian situation created as a result of the 134-day blockade of Artsakh by Azerbaijan. The interlocutors touched upon the gross violations of the Trilateral Statement of 9 November 2020, in particular, the establishment of an illegal checkpoint by Azerbaijan in the Lachin Corridor on April 23 and the need for an urgent response by the international community.
Update of daily statistics
About 1,140 people have been deprived of the opportunity to receive necessary medical treatment due to suspension of planned surgeries in all medical facilities of Artsakh increasing by about 10 cases in the last 4 days.
As of today, 337 patients have been transferred from Artsakh to Armenia to receive appropriate medical care with the mediation and accompaniment of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Due to the Red Cross not having an ambulance and only being able to transport patients with an ordinary vehicle, it is not possible to transport patients needing to lay down because Azerbaijan has obstructed the movement of Artsakh ambulances.
Around 3,900 people, including 570 children, have been separated from their homes as a result of the blockade, however, some have already returned home with the assistance of the Red Cross and Russian peacekeepers.
No citizen traveled freely along the Stepanakert-Goris highway, and the cases of two-way movement of people decreased by about 191 times, and only with the support of the Red Cross and RF peacekeepers (instead of 330,750 people in 135 days, 1,734 entry and exit. No cases of entry and exit of citizens have been registered in the last 4 days).
Not a single vehicle of Artsakh citizens passed through the blocked road, and the movement of Red Cross and Russian peacekeepers vehicles was almost 51 times less than it should have been without the blockade (instead of 124,520, 2,433 vehicles entered and exited in 135 days, and that only by Red Cross and Russian peacekeepers). That means only 12 vehicle entries and exits were recorded in the last 4 days.
About 13 times less vital goods were imported by the Red Cross and Russian peacekeepers than should have been without the blockade (4,281 tons instead of about 54,000 tons in 135 days, only 34 tons of which in the last 4 days).
During the blockade, Azerbaijan completely or partially interrupted the sole gas supply into Artsakh for a total of 69 days, and electricity supply has been completely disrupted for 106 days. This has led to daily blackouts and additional emergency shutdowns, resulting in many facilities closing or curtailing operations.
860 business entities (20,1 % of the total) have suspended their activities due to the impossible operating conditions under the blockade, while the remaining operate partially or with state support.
At estimated 10,300 people (including state-supported temporary work placements and more than 50% of private sector workers) have lost jobs and sources of income as a result of the impact on the economy from the blockade and disruptions of vital infrastructure
Construction work of 32.6 kilometers of roads, tens of kilometers of water lines, irrigation systems for thousands of hectares of land, 3,717 apartments, and more than 40 social and industrial infrastructures have been stopped.
During the blockade, the economy of the Republic of Artsakh suffered a loss of around 253 million US dollars, leading to decline of the predicted annual GDP index (903 million dollars) by more than 28 percent.

Key facts
Since December 12, 2022, Azerbaijan has blocked all free movement of people, vehicles and cargo, with the exception of the International Committee of Red Cross and Russian peacekeepers, along the Lachin Corridor.
As a result of Azerbaijan’s terroristic crimes, the 120,000 people of Artsakh experience severe shortages of food, medication, fuel and many other vital products. They also face dire issues related to heating, education, healthcare and other basic areas of life, creating a serious humanitarian crisis and violation of fundamental human rights.
Due to the shortages of food, 20 long-day educational institutions have been working partially since January 9, and in different periods, instruction of kindergartens and schools were also completely or partially stopped.
Since the beginning of the blockade, several types of food, specifically almost all types of vegetables and fruits, which were imported from Armenia, have faced drastic shortages and eventually became unavailable. Considering the shortages of food, a special coupon system has been in effect in Artsakh since January 20. Within the coupon system, limited volumes of pasta, buckwheat, rice, sugar, oil, fruits, vegetables, eggs, as well as non-food products like washing powder, are sold.
To further isolate and exacerbate the crisis caused by its blockade, Azerbaijan has attacked Artsakh’s civilian critical infrastructure, regularly interrupting the sole gas supply into Artsakh and fully disabled electricity supply since January 9. Taking into account that the volume of domestic electricity production, currently run on hydropower, is much less than consumption, and the water resources of the Sarsang reservoir are decreasing, rolling blackouts have been implemented since January 10.
The details of the severe consequences of the blockade are provided in the most recent report by Artsakh’s Human Rights Defender (Ombudsman), titled: “Report On The Violations Of Individual And Collective Human Rights As A Result Of Azerbaijan's Blockade Of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) for four months (122 Days)”.
Since the beginning of the blockade, many countries and international organizations have condemned Azerbaijan's actions and called for the lifting of the blockade. This issue was also discussed in the UN Security Council. European Parliament also adopted a strong resolution on the humanitarian consequences of the Artsakh blockade. The European Court of Human Rights ordered Azerbaijan to take all necessary and sufficient measures to end the blockade. Furthermore, the UN International Court of Justice (The Hague), as part of the proceedings of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, on February 22, 2023, ordered Azerbaijan to lift its blockade and ensure the unimpeded movement of persons, vehicles, and cargo along the Lachin Corridor. However, since then Azerbaijan has done nothing to implement the binding ruling of the highest international judicial institution, even more, has caused additional violations against the Artsakh people, including killing 3 policemen with an ambush attack and constantly escalating the situation with use of force and threat of force.