Nagorno-Karabakh faces a bleak midwinter as Azerbaijan maintains blockades
As the blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh's only open border crossing enters a fifth day, the self-declared Caucasus republic is experiencing a shortage of basic goods as it prepares for Christmas. Fuel was already in short supply in the region, and shopkeepers in the capital Stepanakert now say they are running out of critical groceries because of panic buying.
Self-proclaimed environmental demonstrators from Azerbaijan have blocked the road in Lachin, which is the only overland link between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh but goes across Azerbaijan territory.
In recent months Azerbaijan has also stepped up ceasefire violations in Lachin, amid fears that fighting could break out once again between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which acts as Nagorno-Karabakh's protector. Russian peacekeepers in the area have appeared powerless to do anything.
The territory, inhabited by ethnic Armenians, is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but has been de facto independent since a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the early 1990s. Azerbaijan reconquered much of the territory in another war in 2020 and has been increasing pressure on Armenia to give up its protection of the territory.
Karabakh imports food items such as cooking oil, dairy, rice, and virtually all of its medicines. These and other imports were halted on December 12. The crisis was compounded by the disruption of gas supplies from Armenia to Karabakh carried out through the interruption of a pipeline passing through Azerbaijani-controlled territory.
Azerbaijan claims the road blockers are environmental activists who are concerned about the "illegal exploitation of gold mines". However, RFE/RL's
Armenian Service has identified a group of Azerbaijani protesters who appear in the ongoing protests' front rows and chant environmental slogans the loudest.
These protesters haven't been known for their interest in environmental issues before. Open source data demonstrates that the protestors support the presidential family and take pride in Azerbaijan's military successes.
One of them is Telman Qasimov, a former Azerbaijani soldier who presents himself as a military expert in the pro-government media. According to reports, he is a reserve army captain and speaks Armenian.
Under the intense spotlight of the continuous coverage by pro-government Azerbaijani media, the Russian peacekeepers have appeared unsure of how to manage the protesters. On several occasions, the Russians can be seen being easily pushed around by the protesters and reporters. At other times, they lose their patience and react.
Their performance has only deepened scepticism of the Russian peacekeeping mission on both sides.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto has subtly rejected an offer from Kyiv for a meeting between President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Prime Minister Viktor Orban, according to first commentaries after the news broke on December 7.
On same day, official warns Ankara to dial down the abrasive rhetoric, saying: "You are completely isolated. The only real friend you have is Azerbaijan."
European Commission warns cabinet to wait before going ahead with controversial changes in the legal system.
Half of the cross-border banking groups active in Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe say they want to “selectively expand” in the region, shows the latest EIB survey.
All the suspects for the brutal murders of a 14-year-old girl and a 74-year-old man are members of the extremist, pro-Russia Desna party.
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