It is the fifth day that a limited number of people were transported from Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) capital Stepanakert to Armenia, accompanied by Russian peacekeepers, and the same number of people returned to Artsakh from Armenia. Artsakh Human Rights Defender (Ombudsman) Gegham Stepanyan told this to Alpha News on Tuesday, and added that about 100 people from Artsakh were transported to Armenia, and about 110 others returned to Artsakh.
The ombudsman explained that the Russian peacekeepers accompanied these Armenians throughout the entire period, including at the Hakari bridge checkpoint of the Azerbaijanis, despite the fact that these peacekeepers are not seen in the respective Azerbaijani videos.
"I think that the Azerbaijani side makes a special effort not to show the Russian peacekeepers in the videos. This is for a propaganda purpose, to show that, ‘see, the Armenian population of Karabakh passes through the Hakari checkpoint without a third party.’ (…). It is clear that the goal of the Azerbaijanis is to ensure that there is no participation of the Russian side or the Red Cross in this process, and that they can show the outside world that there is no problem and that the so-called ‘integration’ is working," said the Artsakh ombudsman.
He added that by disseminating such videos, the Azerbaijani side aims to show the international community that the aforesaid checkpoint works as normal, and the free movement of people through the Lachin corridor is ensured.
"Moreover, filming is carried out without people's permission, violating people's rights," Stepanyan said.
"Azerbaijan deliberately obstructed the transportation of medical patients [from Artsakh to Armenia]; it was done specifically so that the citizens of Artsakh would start using the so-called ‘checkpoint.’ I am sure that not only the medical patients, but also the Red Cross representatives, who should have unimpeded access to Artsakh, are going through a passport check today,” the Artsakh ombudsman noted.
"The worrisome thing is that people who are targeted by Azerbaijan and are declared enemies of Azerbaijan, their passport data is at the disposal of Azerbaijan, which deepens the security threats to the people of Artsakh," said Stepanyan.
For example, there are people in the military and political leadership of Artsakh who are included in Azerbaijani criminal cases; therefore, according to the Artsakh ombudsman, these people cannot use the Hakari checkpoint because Azerbaijan will not miss the opportunity and can abduct them.
Stepanyan believes that Armenians should not be allowed to move to any settlement without a third party, as this will give the Azerbaijani side a reason to claim that free movement along the Lachin corridor has been restored.
"As long as people pass along that road accompanied by a third party, then there are both psychological and physical threats. In that situation, it is not logical to talk about the [Lachin] corridor being opening, or the lifting of the [Azerbaijani] blockade [of Artsakh]," emphasized the Artsakh ombudsman.