On Friday, August 26, Azerbaijan’s President, Ilham Aliyev, announced that the Azerbaijani army took control of the city of Lachin as well as the villages of Zabukh and Sus, which are located on the only road connecting Armenia and Karabakh. On his Twitter account, Aliyev said:
“Today, on 26 August, we – the Azerbaijanis have returned to the city of Lachin. Azerbaijan’s Army is now stationed in the city of Lachin. The villages of Zabukh and Sus were taken under control. I congratulate all the residents of Lachin and the people of Azerbaijan on this occasion. Long live Lachin! Long live Azerbaijan!”
On its social media accounts, the Azerbaijani defense ministry released footage of the army’s entry into Lachin. The footage showed a large number of military trucks, armored personnel carriers, and infantry fighting vehicles as well as their efforts to settle in new deployment points. A speech given by Kanan Seyidov, a major general and deputy commander of the Special Forces in the Azerbaijan Armed Forces, in front of a building in Lachin’s city center, was also included in the footage. The old Lachin Corridor will no longer be used and residents of the last remaining Armenian-inhabited settlements in the corridor have been ordered to vacate the area, with Aliyev describing their presence as ‘illegally settled’.
According to the accords struck by Russia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia, Lachin and a few villages along the road between Khankendi (or Stepanakert) and Armenia, where the Armenian population of Karabakh is located, came under the control of the Baku administration. Details about the Lachin corridor were included in Article 6 of the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire, which came into effect on 10 November, 2020.
The ceasefire agreement’s sixth article reads:
“The Republic of Armenia shall return Kalbajar district to the Republic of Azerbaijan by 15 November 2020 and Lachin district by 1 December 2020. The Lachin corridor (5km wide), which shall provide a connection of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia and shall not affect the city of Shusha, shall remain under the control of the Russian Federation’s peacekeeping contingent. By agreement of the Parties, a plan for the construction of a new route along the Lachin corridor shall be determined in the next three years, providing communication between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, with the subsequent redeployment of the Russian peacekeeping contingent to protect this route. The Republic of Azerbaijan shall guarantee the safety of citizens, vehicles and goods traveling along the Lachin corridor in both directions.”
The construction of this 32km road began after Armenian forces left the area, and it was finished a year ahead of schedule in accordance with the tripartite ceasefire agreement. In addition to the 22km of roads under Azerbaijan’s responsibility, 4.8km of the 10km of roads under Armenia’s responsibility were built by Azerbaijan at the request of the Armenians in just “10 months,” according to Saleh Mammadov, Chairman of the Board of the Azerbaijan State Agency of Motor Roads. The Azerbaijani government has constructed an alternate route to the Lachin corridor.
With the road planned to be opened in the next week, Armenians living in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan will use the new road for travel to and from Armenia. In addition, the Russian peacekeeping force, consisting of 1,960 soldiers, 90 armored personnel carriers, and 380 other vehicles, deployed in the conflict zone in 2020 to ensure the security of civilian vehicles traveling along the Lachin corridor in Nagorno-Karabakh, started to remove their checkpoints in the region. The Russians will relocate the checkpoints to the new road. The military police of the Azerbaijani Army will now be in charge of security activities in these areas, which had been under the supervision of the Russian peacekeeping force for roughly two years. As a result, the city of Lachin and two villages came under the control of the Baku administration after the withdrawal of both Russian troops and the Armenian populace from the area.