Operation “Ecologists” and the blockade of Nagorno Karabakh. What structures of Azerbaijan manage the circus?

It is already the 5th day since Artsakh was completely blocked. 120,000 civilians of Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh) are cut off from the rest of the world. The only road that should ensure their uninterrupted connection with Armenia and the rest of the world, the Lachin corridor, is blocked by Azerbaijani pseudo-activists. They call themselves “eco-activists” who are allegedly concerned about the “environmental situation” in Artsakh.

During these days, our team carefully studied the accounts of more than 150 “activists” on various social network platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). The results of our research showed that this operation was organised by the authorities and relevant governmental structures of Azerbaijan in advance, and the following structures are involved in coordinating the actions of the “activists”:

  • Regional and youth branches of the ruling party of Azerbaijan, “Yeni (New) Azerbaijan”;
  • “State Support Agency for Non-Governmental Organisations of Azerbaijan” under the Office of the President of Azerbaijan;
  • “Azerbaijan Youth Fund” under the Office of the President of Azerbaijan;
  • “Volunteer” organisations operating under various state structures of Azerbaijan;
  • Public Councils under the Ministries of Ecology and Natural Resources, Education and other state bodies of Azerbaijan

In the organisational process of the “demonstration” technical and other assistance provide:

  • Ministry of Emergency Situations of Azerbaijan;
  • Ministry of Internal Affairs of Azerbaijan;
  • Other government agencies.

The participants of these provocative actions are sent to the occupied territories of Artsakh in an organised way, by buses, having received the appropriate permission from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Azerbaijan. All participants are carefully selected. People, mass media, which are not controlled by the government, are categorically not allowed there. All actions of “activists” are also carefully coordinated with Baku.

The true face and true goals of the “activists” (see official Baku)

One of the main actors on the spot is Togrul Allahverdili. He is the head of the “NGO” called “Support for Youth Initiatives and Development”, which receives grants from the “Azerbaijan Youth Fund” under the administration of the President of Azerbaijan. 

Three days before the start of the “operation” to block the Lachin corridor, Allahverdili and a number of other leaders of Azerbaijani “NGOs” took part in a meeting organised by the “State Support Agency for Azerbaijani NGOs”, which also operates under the administration of the President of Azerbaijan. Looking ahead, we should note that those present at the meeting also take part in the closure of the Lachin corridor.

Later that day, Allahverdili and other Azerbaijani “NGO” leaders staged a protest in front of the Russian embassy in Baku and handed over a letter addressed to the commander of the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Artsakh, Volkov. The letter contained a demand to organise a visit of Azerbaijani “specialists” to the Artsakh mines of Drmbon and Kashen, allegedly for the purpose of “monitoring”. Having published a report of their action, Allahverdiyev commented: “Our road leads to Khankendi (the capital of Artsakh, Stepanakert) and Khojaly (Ivanyan, a city in Artsakh).” That is, initially, not environmental, but aggressive political statements.

It should be noted that 6 days before, another group of Azerbaijani representatives had already closed the Lachin corridor with the same demand, but opened it a few hours later. On December 10, accompanied by the commander of the Russian peacekeeping contingent, they tried to visit the mines, but local people did not let them in.

Already on the night of December 12, at 1:38 (GMT + 4), Allahverdili published his photo from the occupied Artsakh city of Shushi.

On the morning of the same day, before the start of the provocation, he published a video from Shushi with a caption that “Khojaly” (Ivanyan) was behind him, and sooner or later Azerbaijan “will take Khojaly either peacefully or with an iron fist”.

Starting from 10:30 (GMT+4), he took an active part in the closure of the Lachin corridor as one of the coordinators of the Azerbaijani group’s actions. On December 15, he announced that the slogans of the Azerbaijani “activists” were changing. Then other “activists” began repeating new slogans after him: “Harutyunyan (President of Artsakh) get out (from Artsakh)”, “Vardanyan (State-Minister of Artsakh) get out!”, “We demand a checkpoint of the State Border Service of Azerbaijan in the Lachin corridor.” That is already purely political statements and demands.

Together with Allahverdili, the leader of another “youth” organisation (Taleh Mansurov), who also, according to his own records, received grants from the two above-mentioned organisations operating under the administration of the President of Azerbaijan, participated in the closure of the Lachin corridor from the first day. According to information from his biography, written in his Facebook profile, he previously worked in the ruling Party of Azerbaijan “Yeni Azerbaijan”.

In the following days, the ranks of Azerbaijani pseudo-activists were replenished in an organised manner. They were transported by buses, as evidenced by videos and photos posted by participants on social media.

Since December 13, as part of the new “activists,” Azer Allahveranov, a member of the abovementioned State Agency (member of the Supervisory Board) for work with Azerbaijani NGOs, also arrived in Shushi by bus. The photo he published shows that among the newly arrived “activists” there was another participant in the “operation planning” under the coordination of the said organisation on December 9th.

Allahveranov is also a member of the Public Council under the State Migration Service of Azerbaijan. After arriving in the occupied Shushi, he published a joint photo with other 7 members of this council, who also are taking part in the “action”.

Other members of the leadership of this organisation under the administration of the President of Azerbaijan, including Ilgar Orudzhev, who also published a photo with Allahveranov, also are taking part in the closure of the Lachin corridor. Orudzhev is also a member of the “Public Council” under the Ministry of Education of Azerbaijan.

Members of “public councils” under other ministries and state bodies of Azerbaijan also participate in the organisation of the “action”. In particular, Mahsati Huseynov, deputy head of the “Public Council” under the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Azerbaijan, and other members of the “council” are actively involved. Also, employees of this ministry, such as Kenan Karimli, are directly involved.

Members of the ruling “Yeni Azerbaijan” party and employees of the administrations of various districts of Baku (Khetai, Yasamal), such as Farid Mustafayev, Fatima Hajibeyli, Vilayat Mammadov, and others, are also directly involved in blocking the Lachin corridor. One of these members of the ruling party on December 14, after arriving in Shushi, published a photo with the Deputy Minister of Ecology of Azerbaijan, Firdovsi Aliyev, from which it becomes clear that he is also involved in the closure of the Lachin corridor.

Hundreds of members of the so-called “volunteer” organisations under various state structures of Azerbaijan, such as the migration service, are also actively involved in closing the corridor. These groups are coordinated by the head of the Union of Volunteer Organizations of Azerbaijan, Yusif Veliyev.

This union was created in 2020 “at the call of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev” (as written on the website of the organisation). Members are “volunteer” organisations under the state structures of Azerbaijan.

A study of the accounts of other participants shows that they are also associated with various state structures of Azerbaijan and/or with the ruling party. Their “transfer” to Artsakh is carried out only after obtaining permission from the relevant structures of Azerbaijan. And if there is a “bug” due to the fact that several buses leave every day, and they may not have time to check everyone properly, then when a “problem” is found, it is immediately solved.

In particular, on the night of December 15, a journalist from the Azerbaijani opposition website Meydan TV reported that she and two of her colleagues were detained on the Shushi-Stepanakert road section by people in “black masks”. Under her Facebook post, the official representative of the Azerbaijani Interior Ministry, Elshad Hajiyev, wrote that the journalists were not detained: they were only returned back (to Baku) because “they did not have permission to visit (the occupied territories of Artsakh)”.

Other anti-Armenian statements of the participants of the “action”

The participants of the “action” also spread open anti-Armenian statements, making calls to seize the capitals of Artsakh (Stepanakert) and Armenia (Yerevan). 

One of the participants, Afag Ferzalibekova, who joined the “action” on December 14, on her Facebook page called the capital of Armenia Yerevan “Azerbaijani” (#Yerevan is #Azerbaijan #Khankendi), and in another post she said: “One night we will suddenly arrive in Khankendi (Stepanakert)”, which is a paraphrase of the well-known aggressive rhetoric of the Turkish president.

Also, a dozen other participants repeat the phrase “our way to Shusha (Shushi), and our goal is Khankendi (Stepanakert)” (Yolumuz Şuşa, istiqamətimiz Xankəndidir!). Some of the people who have made such aggressive statements on their social media profiles have indicated that they are members of Azerbaijan’s ruling party.

On the profile of one of the participants, Telman Gasimov (called a “military expert” in the Azerbaijani media. He speaks Armenian and, presumably, has been collaborating with the Azerbaijani special services for a long time), there is a photo with Ramil Safarov (a former Azerbaijani officer who, in 2004, during NATO-sponsored English course killed a sleeping Armenian officer, Gurgen Margaryan, with an axe. See here for more information).

He also has a number of other photographs, such as the photograph below, where he shows the sign of the “grey wolves” (Turkish ultra-nationalists) against the background of the wall, which says the following: “Our goal is Irevan (Yerevan). Long live united Azerbaijan.”

There are dozens of such examples. Other participants in the blockade of Artsakh repeatedly demonstrated the same sign of the “grey wolves” during the closure of the Lachin corridor, and made anti-Armenian statements. One thing is clear: their concern is definitely not ecology or environmental problems. These people have never made such statements and actions in Azerbaijan.

They are carefully coordinated by the Azerbaijani authorities and promote the aggressive ideas of official Baku, such as the creation of a checkpoint in the Lachin corridor (in violation of the trilateral statement of November 9, 2020), the closure of factories on the territory of Artsakh, the terror against the population of Artsakh, an extraterritorial corridor on the territory of Armenia, etc.

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