The most discussed topics in the Armenian media in May were border incidents and the appearance of the Azerbaijani armed forces in the sovereign territory of Armenia.
The developments around Ishkhanasar and Lake Sev in the Syunik region have been actively discussed in the media since May 12, and then at the end of the month, the capture of six Armenian servicemen from the border zone of Gegharkunik region.
Ishkhanasar: developments and political contexts
On the morning of May 12, the media reported that there was tension in the Syunik portion of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in the direction of Ishkhanasar.
In the afternoon, the RA Ministry of Defense issued a statement stating that the Azerbaijani armed forces, on the grounds of “border adjustments,” tried to carry out certain operations in one of the border areas of Syunik, which was stopped after measures were taken by Armenian units.
The Ministry of Defense also denied the information spread in the press “about the battles going on in the direction of Ishkhanasar.” The events taking place in the Ishkhanasar sector were interpreted differently by the political wings, giving them an internal political context.
“There were no shootings, no wounded, no fighting,” said Andranik Kocharyan, Chairman of the NA Standing Committee on Defense and Security, in response to the rumors being spread.
In his opinion, the actions of the enemy have a political component and are also aimed at creating tension in the internal political life of Armenia.
Speaking about the spread of false information and its reasons, he described them as a “planned provocation” and noted that “the meaning of that panic is clear to him.”
NA deputy Vahagn Aleksanyan described that news as “another disgusting attempt of media terror.”
“No shots were fired in Ishkhanasar, let alone fights. I understand that some outcasts will do everything to increase the fear and anxiety of the people during the pre-election period, but I assure you that they will not succeed,” the MP wrote.
In a conversation with Public Television, Armen Khachatryan, an MP from Syunik, said that Azerbaijan is trying to solve a number of problems for itself. One of them is to create instability in Armenia, realizing that “the fertile ground already exists, there are political forces that will use this against the state and the government.”
In one of its reports, Channel 5 quoted the opinion of former Minister of Defense Seyran Ohanyan that “by taking control of that height, the enemy is taking control of many settlements and water resources in Syunik.”
Seyran Ohanyan thinks that the Azerbaijani government is trying to influence the internal political developments in Armenia at any cost, maybe to prevent the upcoming elections, so that the revanchists mentioned by Aliyev do not come to power. The President of Azerbaijan often makes it clear that he does not want Pashinyan to leave.
During the same issue, the media outlet reported on the case of mass poisoning in Sisian, raising a rhetorical question: could it be connected with the Azerbaijani invasion of Lake Sev? And at the end of the plot, the journalist expresses the idea that “the Minister of Health, who participated in the Security Council, did not clearly deny that the poisoning may have something to do with it.”
According to military expert Arthur Yeghiazaryan, the shortest area from Ishkhanasar is to Nakhichevan, and if the enemy wants to capture Syunik by military means, “one of the most convenient options is to immediately cut them off from there and completely separate Syunik from the rest of Armenia.”
The leader of the “Yerkir Tsirani” party, lawyer Zaruhi Postanjyan, said that “Aliyev says he will take Syunik by force, now it is happening, Nikol Pashinyan is acting as his partner in Armenia. Coming 3 km into our state border is a criminal act, which the government should follow, but does not do. The state should have armed the residents of the border villages, but they are being disarmed to make the Aliyev occupation easier.”
“Giving up the Great Ishkhanasar means giving up the whole of Syunik,” Artsakh hero Arshavir Gharamyan believes. “Taking advantage of the military-political situation in the region, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the inability of the degenerate authorities in Armenia and Turkey’s aspirations to get out of this mess, the Azerbaijanis were instructed to immediately take control of the Ishkhanasar Mountains and thus control the border, which after the last war in Artsakh has become one of the most important components of a large military base and the security of Syunik.”
The capture of 6 servicemen
On May 27, it became known that “six servicemen of the RA Armed Forces were surrounded and taken prisoner by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces while carrying out engineering works in the border area of the Gegharkunik region, in the territory of the six servicemen of the Armed Forces.”
On the same day, the chairman of the NA Committee on Defense and Security Andranik Kocharyan said in a briefing with journalists in the National Assembly that if the issue of the return of 6 Armenian servicemen captured from the Gegharkunik region is not solved within hours or days, the captives will be exchanged with captives.
According to him, Azerbaijan not only delays the solution of the border issue that arose on May 12 but also creates a new reality. “This is already fraught with very serious consequences and Azerbaijan will bear the responsibility.”
On the same day, Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan visited the village of Kut in the Gegharkunik region and called on the people to unite.
“I want to say that we have not paid enough attention to this issue during this period, we are all one family and one hearth,” said Nikol Pashinyan.
The acting Prime Minister emphasized that no one should dare think that the government is participating in corrupt dealings.
A criminal case has been initiated in the Prosecutor’s Office on the fact of kidnapping 6 servicemen, with the features of crimes envisaged by Article 329, Part 2 and Article 131, Part 2, Clauses 1, 2, 3 and 6 of the RA Criminal Code. And the European Court of Human Rights was examining Armenia’s application to ensure the fundamental rights of the 6 Armenian servicemen captured by Azerbaijan.
The issue of the abduction of Armenian servicemen was also covered in the media in different contexts. According to the first president of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosyan, there is a political and psychological problem.
“The political: Aliyev is convinced that Nikol will not win this election and, taking advantage of his weakness, tries to extort as much as possible from him. Psychologically, it was the humiliated situation in Azerbaijan after 30 years of defeat. ․․․ The same thing that the Armenian people demand from Nikol now in a defeated state, the same thing was demanded by the people of Azerbaijan for 30 years.”
In the article, “Russia has obstructed the operation to release the Armenian soldiers: What was the role of the Russian-Turkish center in Akna” The “Lragir.am” author wrote that the capture operation was carried out from the Russian-Turkish center of Akna, whose function is not only the control of Artsakh but also the intelligence and control of Syunik, Gegharkunik and Tavush regions of Armenia at a depth of 200 km. This is the so-called area of responsibility of the center, its task is to follow the movements of the Armenian army and restrain possible Armenian initiatives, including in the direction of Karvachar and Kashatagh regions.
“The possibility of the immediate return of the captives was prevented at the ‘urging’ of the Russian side; they were transferred to another place. It is obvious that the practice of Moscow-Baku hostage-taking continues, the issue of their return will be delayed, to put it mildly, in order to impose new agreements on Armenia. It has already been reported today that the Armenian government has allocated free land in the Syunik region to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) to organize border protection. It is possible that it is connected with the ‘Meghri Corridor.'”
Continuing the topic, the “Lragir.am” journalist wrote, “It is obvious that these ‘incidents,’ as the Russian side characterizes them, will continue regularly, creating many problems to divert Armenia’s attention from the most important issues, in particular the issue of Artsakh’s status and discussions in the Minsk Group. The statements of Moscow and Baku are harmonious and have the same content.”
Constitutional expert Gohar Meloyan said, “The capitulator who signed the next anti-Armenian and anti-constitutional document immediately after the capture of the Armenian soldiers announces that he will present a mutually beneficial plan for Armenia and Azerbaijan. In other words, the government, which conspired to take six Armenian soldiers captive, is going to make new concessions in favor of Azerbaijan, most likely in the form of new territory, a corridor or a delimitation agreement made on extremely unprofitable terms.”
According to Meloyan, in these conditions, the most sound and reasonable assumption is that the capture of six Armenian soldiers was planned in advance in order to psychologically force the Armenian people to make new concessions.
And “Aysor.am” republished the “Hraparak” newspaper’s article, in which it is mentioned, “According to our information, all attempts to quickly return the six captured soldiers yesterday can be considered a failure: they were transferred to Baku, and the actions aimed at returning them will be the same as in the case of other prisoners. We were informed that the pre-planned flight of Russian peacekeeping commander General Muradov to Moscow was canceled, he was instructed to stay in Yerevan and follow further developments. But the Russian peacekeepers are instructed not to intervene as long as the clashes take place in the so-called ‘disputed territories.’ And the Russian-Azerbaijani sides have a map on the basis of which the demarcation of the borders will take place.”
Document to be signed by Armenia
On May 19, former Armenian Ambassador to the Vatican Mikayel Minasyan released a document claiming it to be proof that a process had been initiated to begin the demarcation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. At the May 20 sitting of the government, Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan referred to the situation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, speaking about the document published as a result of a leak.
“If Azerbaijan implements these agreements and in the conditions that we have spoken about, yes, I will sign the document, because it is 100% in line with the national interests of Armenia. I simply will not publish that paper because it is not correct, it is a working paper, negotiations are underway, there are proposals and so on.”
Later, however, the document was published in its entirety on several Telegram channels, and later on, also appeared in the media. The points and suggestions of this document became the subject of discussion.
CivilNet correspondent Gevorg Tosunyan noted in his article that Nikol Pashinyan is being forced to sign a new document, the details of its content are not being discussed, but Pashinyan reassures that he is doing everything to prevent threats to Syunik’s security and prevent a new war.
“There is no talk that, as a result of this demarcation-delimitation, Armenia will lose interstate roads, as well as territories in Tavush, and will, effectively, be vulnerable. The priority point of the November 10 announcement has not been fulfilled for us. Azerbaijan continues to hold our compatriots as hostages. …How is it possible to carry out demarcation in this atmosphere? And what does our strategic ally, Russia, think about this?” the author writes.
During ArmNews’ “Agenda” program, Anna Grigoryan, a member of the “Armenia” Alliance and vice-president of the “Reborn Armenia” party, referring to the document to be signed, noted “When listening to the Prime Minister yesterday, I expected that the square should be full. After all the documents that have been signed behind our backs so far, I thought this would really shock our society, but we see that people do not fully understand the depth of it all.”
“1in.am” published one of the opposition rallies, during which ARF member Artsvik Minasyan noted that Nikol Pashinyan is not authorized to sign any document on behalf of Armenia, and the people should not allow him to remain in power.