May 9 Messages: Armenians reiterate resolve to defend Karabakh

As Armenia marked May 9, the 71st anniversary of allied victory in World War II in Europe and the 24th anniversary of the liberation of Shushi during the first Nagorno-Karabakh war (1992-1994), there was no shortage of statements from officials related to the recent escalation of fighting in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict zone.

On that day, Yerevan and Stepanakert did not hold festivities and parades, given the fact that nearly a hundred families are now still in mourning for those killed in the April 2-5 clashes in Karabakh.

Armenian leaders and senior public and political figures visited Victory Park and the Yerablur military cemetery in Yerevan and the Common Graves in Stepanakert and Shushi in Karabakh. They made a number of statements that were perceived as a clear message to the world community.

In particular, Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan, who was on a visit to Karabakh, stated that no one and nothing, even military aggression, can force Armenians to leave their native land.

Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian reiterated that after Azerbaijan’s aggression last month at today’s stage of talks the parties can only discuss ways of precluding a repeat of what happened at the beginning of April.

“It is necessary to put in place mechanisms that will ensure appropriate conditions for the resumption of the negotiation process,” the top Armenian diplomat underscored.

Photo: Photolure
Photo: Photolure

Karabakh politicians were more uncompromising in their statements. Describing concessions in the current situation when Azerbaijan contemplates new military actions as “simply absurd”, ex-president Arkady Ghukasyan stated in Stepanakert: “There can be no concessions, especially unilateral ones. Our concessions depend on the behavior and concessions on the part of Azerbaijan.”

As for the prospects for resuming negotiations, Ghukasyan, who is Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan’s ambassador-at-large today, said: “Of course, negotiations are always needed. And Karabakh should definitely act as a party in such negotiations.”

Karabakh Defense Minister Levon Mnatsakanyan also denied there is any talk about concessions in Stepanakert today. He said that while Azerbaijan was amassing its forces at the line of contact, the situation there was under the control of Karabakh’s defense army.

“The troops [of Azerbaijan] will be amassed, and we will be dissipating them. There is an atmosphere of fear in Azerbaijan. They have switched to the defensive,” the Karabakh minister said.

But the most interesting message of the day came from Russian Ambassador to Armenia Ivan Volynkin. Experts note that the April war has led to an unexpected result – the identification of insoluble contradictions in the interests and relations between Armenia and Russia. This is especially connected with the supply of Russian arms to Azerbaijan and Russia’s marked “neutrality” and effective refusal to support its strategic ally Armenia.

Volynkin, who visited Yerevan’s Victory Park on May 9, was asked by Armenian reporters about the Russian deliveries of armaments to Azerbaijan, to which the diplomat demanded “proof” that Russia continued to supply weapons to Azerbaijan. When journalists quoted Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin on that, the ambassador said that Russia sold weapons to both Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Turning to the question of what has caused the delay in the supply of a fresh batch of Russian weapons to Armenia, Volynkin said: “You know, this is not a delay, this is just a long process. This does not mean that Russia is not supplying weapons to Armenia. Russia has supplied weapons to Armenia. Simply, new contracts require some time, first of all, in connection with the choice of weapons that Armenia needs.”

Asked whether Russia was going to take any new measures to prevent Azerbaijan’s fresh aggression against Karabakh and Armenia, Volynkin said: “Russia has always made efforts on the settlement of this conflict, these efforts will continue. Naturally, there will be meetings, talks on this matter. I think it will take place sometime in the near future.”