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Azerbaijani Activists Continue Peaceful Protests on Lachin-Khankendi Road

By Nargiz Mammadli December 24, 2022

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Azerbaijani activists, civil society members, and volunteers have been staging a peaceful protest against illegal mining activities in the country's Karabakh region for thirteen days / Trend News Agency

Ecological activists, civil society members and volunteers from Azerbaijan continued to stage protests against the illegal exploitation of the country’s mineral resources by Armenians in the Karabakh region.

Now on its 13th day, the rally on the Lachin-Khankendi road in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan is gaining momentum as 100 more activists and volunteers joined the protesters on Friday morning.

Their demands centered solely around ecological concerns which were fueled after reports of illegal exploitation and transportation of the mineral resources of Azerbaijan in the Karabakh region. Protesters urged an immediate stop to these crimes and called for oversight of the current situation in the deposits, as well as a halt of illegal mining activities.

The activists demanded that Russian peacekeepers ensure the appropriate use of the Lachin road in line with humanitarian purposes. The protestors pledged not to leave the scene until the Russian peacekeeping command considers their demands.

Since December 3, 2022, a group of experts from Azerbaijan’s Economy Ministry and Ecology and Natural Resources Ministry and the State Property Service under the Ministry of Economy and AzerGold Company, held negotiations with the command of the peacekeeping contingent on the illegal exploitation of mineral deposits, as well as on environmental and other secondary consequences in the Azerbaijani territories under its temporary monitoring. As a result of consecutive meetings on December 3 and 4, the two sides agreed to ecological monitoring by the Azerbaijani experts at the Gizilbulag gold and Demirli copper-molybdenum deposits.

However, on December 10, the visit of the representatives of Azerbaijan to the deposits was derailed in the wake of illegal intervention by ethnic Armenians living in certain parts of Azerbaijan's Karabakh region. Back then, the Russian peacekeepers did not take preventive measures to facilitate the previously agreed visit of the Azerbaijani experts.

This led civil society members and volunteers to protest along the Lachin-Khankendi road on December 12.

The peaceful protest was interpreted by Armenian authorities and media outlets as an attempt to block the road that connects Armenia with the partial Armenian population in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. However, the Azerbaijani government and media have come forth with evidence proving that the Lachin-Khankendi road is used freely by the Russian peacekeepers for humanitarian cargo shipments, as well as for ambulances and civilians, including the family members of the peacekeepers. The activists even provided a hotline number to address the appeals of the Armenian citizens of Azerbaijan residing in the Karabakh region.

The armed Russian peacekeeping contingent had earlier blocked the Lachin road amidst the protests in an attempt to prevent protesters and journalists from gathering there.

The Azerbaijani authorities have been calling for more efficient control over the Lachin highway by the Russian peacekeeping contingent. The demands gained momentum after reports surfaced about the illegal transportation of minerals from the Azerbaijani territories temporarily monitored by the peacekeepers to Armenia via the Lachin road. Baku-based Caliber.Az news agency reported on November 30 that eight Kamaz trucks accompanied by a Nissan Patrol SUV with an Armenian license number 731 - AB - 61 ER, made their way from the Khankendi city of Azerbaijan to Armenia between November 10 and November 14. Moreover, on November 16-18, identical vehicles were seen along the Lachin road from Armenia to Khankendi.

According to operational data, raw materials extracted at the gold mines near the village of Gulyatagh of the former Aghdara (current Tartar) region of Azerbaijan, located in the zone of temporary responsibility of the Russian peacekeepers, have been transported on these Kamaz trucks. The materials were moved by the Base Metals company, a subsidiary of Vallex Group Company based in Switzerland, which engaged in the looting of precious metals in Kalbajar, Zangilan, and Aghdara during the occupation and currently in the area where Russian peacekeepers are stationed.