Caucasus: Karabakh, ruins of Ağdam

Putin: ”Karabakh is an inseparable part of Azerbaijan”

Putin says that not even Armenia recognised the independence of Karabakh, where the level of destruction in Ağdam is overwhelming.

Nagorno-Karabakh is an inseparable part of Azerbaijan, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday during a television interview, recalling that even Armenia itself never recognised the independence of the region.

In statements made to Rossiya 1 TV, Putin stressed that the fact that even Armenia did not recognise – despite the fact that it threatened to do so during the recent conflict – the independence of the Artsakh Republic, the puppet state of Armenia founded on the territories seized from Azerbaijan in the war of the 1990s, is further proof that Karabakh is an inseparable part of Azerbaijani territory.

Putin insisted on this point, saying that not only Armenia, but no country in the region or around the world had ever recognised the independence of Karabakh, and that international laws and UN resolutions supported Azerbaijan’s claims on that as legitimate territory.

In relation to the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), a NATO-like organisation that groups Russia and several former Soviet republics (including Armenia), Putin noted that the organisation provides mutual assistance in the event of an attack on a territory of a Member State, but again insisted that there was no attack against Armenia by Azerbaijan, so that Russia had no justification to intervene.

On November 9, Armenia and Azerbaijan signed an agreement that represented a de facto capitulation for Yerevan and that cedes the majority of Karabakh to Baku, completely redrawing the map of the Caucasus. The pact, which has sparked daily protests in Armenia against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian demanding his resignation as a “traitor”, provides for the deployment of 2,000 Russian soldiers in Karabakh as peacekeepers, to be joined by Turkish soldiers as well.

Cities razed after Armenian withdrawal

Meanwhile, as the Azerbaijani army moves into the territories occupied since the 1990s by Armenia following the agreed withdrawal of the Armenians, they encounter scenes of unimaginable destruction, including cities once populated by hundreds of thousands of people who were razed to the ground during the occupation, and of which today only ruins remain.

This is the case of Ağdam, a city located in the heart of Karabakh and from which Armenian troops withdrew on November 20 under the recently signed peace agreement between the two countries. There, upon arrival for the first time in 27 years, the Azeris have encountered the harsh reality of a city that once had about 150,000 inhabitants and that today is devastated and turned into ruins, with practically all buildings damaged and uninhabitable.

The old and historic Ağdam Mosque, built in the 19th century during the Ottoman Empire, is the only building that due to its strength remains relatively standing but it is also completely destroyed, full of graffiti and converted into a shooting range, so that its reconstruction – like that of the rest of the city – could take not years, but decades.

The level of destruction in Ağdam, which was razed for the most part by Armenian troops when they occupied Karabakh in the 1990s in order to prevent the return of refugees from Azerbaijan, is of such magnitude that it has been described in many media as “the Hiroshima of the Caucasus“.