Publication Date 23.01.2023
Beginning December 12, 2022, at around 10:30 am, Azerbaijani government agents posing as independent actors in civilian clothes, blocked the only road connecting Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) to Armenia and the outside world – the Goris-Stepanakert Highway – that passes through the “Lachin (Berdzor) corridor”, which is referenced in the Trilateral Ceasefire Statement of November 9, 2020. By this act, Azerbaijan violated one of the provisions of the mentioned statement signed by the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia, namely, Point 6: (...) “The Lachin corridor (5 km wide) which will ensure the communication between Nagorno-Karabakh (NK)/Artsakh and Armenia and at the same time will circumvent the city of Shushi, shall remain under the control of the peacekeeping contingent of the Russian Federation”. By sustaining the blockade of the Lachin corridor, Azerbaijan remains in breach of its international obligations assumed under the Statement of November 9, 2020, which further provides, in no uncertain terms, that “Azerbaijan must guarantee the security of people, vehicles and cargo moving along the Lachin corridor in both directions.”
As a result of the physical obstruction of the sole highway—along with Azerbaijan’s deliberate disruption of Internet connection, gas and electricity supplies from Armenia to Artsakh—120,000 people have been effectively placed under a complete blockade with no access to essential goods and services, including medication, food, fuel and hygiene products, for more than 40 days. Additionally, four communities of the Shushi region—– Lisagor, Mets Shen, Hin Shen and Eghtsahogh—have found themselves in complete isolation both from Artsakh and Armenia. Against this backdrop, Azerbaijan’s intentional targeting and attacking of the critical infrastructure of Artsakh only aggravates the already dire humanitarian situation impacting in the Artsakh civilian population under blockade.
This is the second time that Azerbaijan has blocked the Lachin corridor in the post-2020 war period. Previously, on December 3, 2022, a group of Azerbaijanis, had blocked the highway under fabricated ecological concerns over the mining of natural resources by Artsakh. As a result of 3-hour negotiations, under the mediation of the Russian peacekeeping contingent, the road was opened.
Further aggravating the situation, and with the intention of causing a humanitarian catastrophe, the Azerbaijani authorities cut the supply of natural gas to Artsakh only days later. On December 13-16, 2022, at around 6:00 pm, in severe winter conditions, the Azerbaijani authorities cut off the supply of natural gas from Armenia to Artsakh, depriving the Artsakh civilian population of the basic necessities necessary for safeguarding its livelihood. The gas supply to the entire territory of Artsakh was cut off again by Azerbaijan on January 18, 2023, at around 01:00 pm, leaving the majority of Artsakh’s households still without access to heating and hot water in the dead of winter.
The deliberate nature of these disruptions is clearly evidenced. In March 2022, Azerbaijan disrupted the natural gas supply via the only pipeline from Armenia to Artsakh (currently passes through the territories occupied by Azerbaijan during the 44-day war of 2020) for more than 20 days by detonating a critical portion of it. After detonating the pipeline, Azerbaijan installed a valve on the pipeline, allowing it to establish arbitrary control over the gas supply to Artsakh. The humanitarian consequences of this criminal act of Azerbaijan were discussed in detail in the interim report “On violations of the rights of Artsakh people by Azerbaijan in February-March 2022” of the Ombudsman of the Republic of Artsakh.
Additionally, On January 9, 2023, the sole high-voltage line supplying electricity to Artsakh from Armenia, was damaged in the Aghavno-Berdzor section (Lachin corridor) under Azerbaijani control. Azerbaijani authorities have not allowed repair works to be conducted on the damaged section by Artsakh specialists and, as a result, electricity is now being supplied exclusively by local hydropower plants. Thus, the Artsakh Government has been obliged to schedule rolling blackouts and other restrictions across all of Artsakh in order to save water resources in the Sarsang reservoir in an effort to secure and extend electricity production for the civilian population. However, the reservoirs essential to generate hydropower have very limited resources.
On January 12, 2023, the sole fiber-optic cable supplying the Internet connection to Artsakh from Armenia was damaged in the section of the Stepanakert-Goris highway
where the Azerbaijanis have been blocking the road since December 12, 2022. As a result, the whole of Artsakh was deprived of Internet services for two days, resulting in total information isolation. On January 14, 2023, the connection was restored, yet recurrent disruptions of the Internet connection persist. After the establishment of the 2020 ceasefire, the Azerbaijani side has consistently disrupted mobile communication and Internet access throughout Artsakh, using various types of jammers and silencers.
Amidst this rapidly unfolding humanitarian crisis in Artsakh, Azerbaijan uses the vulnerability of critical infrastructure to terrorise and intimidate the peaceful civilian population of Artsakh, inflicting still further suffering on the people of Artsakh already under blockade, with the aim of their total destruction and eviction from their native land – the end goal of the decades-long systematic and consistent policy of Armenophobia, ethnic cleansing and genocide led by Azerbaijan.
This purpose of this report is to illustrate the ongoing violations of the most fundamental rights of Artsakh people caused by the disruption of the operation of the critical infrastructure of Artsakh amid the month-long blockade by Azerbaijan.