STEPANAKERT — The Russian peacekeeping force deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh has declined to provide security to participants in a local protest planning a trip to Hakari bridge checkpoint at the Lachin corridor to try to break illegal blockade by Azerbaijan.

In a written reply to participants of the planned protest on buses a deputy commander of the peacekeeping force reportedly said that the terms of the deployment of the Russian military under a trilateral statement signed by the leaders of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in November 2020 to end a six-week war in Nagorno-Karabakh did not provide for the possibility of escorting protests on wheels and ensuring the security of various demonstrations and rallies.

“Peacekeepers are there to check for prohibited items, in particular, firearms and explosives, among participants of traffic at checkpoints,” Russian officer Sazonov, who introduced himself only by his surname, wrote, as quoted by Artur Osipyan, a Karabakh activist engaged in the local movement against the Azerbaijani blockade.

The Russian representative also reportedly dismissed claims being disseminated on social media in Azerbaijan that Russian troops intended to use force against Azerbaijani border guards at the checkpoint of the Hakari bridge on the pretext of providing the security for a peaceful Karabakh Armenian protest. Sazonov, as presented by Osipyan, stressed that peaceful protests were not grounds for holding any military operation by the Russian peacekeeping force.

Having a written reply from Alexander Lentsov, the commander of the Russian peacekeeping forces, was the demand of members of the movement for unblocking the Lachin corridor that they presented to the command of the Russian contingent in Nagorno-Karabakh last Friday.

Participants of the movement say that the intended goal of their action is “to show to the world that [Azerbaijani President Ilham] Aliyev is lying when he says that the road is open.”

It is unclear yet whether members of the movement will attempt their announced protest on dozens of buses towards the Azerbaijani checkpoints in the coming days, but activist Osipyan said that they remained adamant despite the reply of the Russian peacekeeping force command that he described as preposterous.

“Now let the Russians explain how providing the security of a dozen or a hundred civilian vehicles is different from providing the security of one civilian vehicle,” Osipyan said in a Facebook video.

The activist claimed that with this latest development “the Kremlin has revealed its true face, showing that the Russians are together with Azerbaijan.”

“We have great suspicions now that along with Azerbaijan it is the Russian peacekeepers, or should I say occupation troops, which they are, who subject us to a blockade… We do not lose heart, we will continue our struggle,” Osipyan said.

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