Vardanyan apprehended and charged, "nkr" self-dissolved and farewell to terminological inexactitude
    Contemplations with Orkhan Amashov

    ANALYTICS  30 September 2023 - 12:03

    Orkhan Amashov

    What once appeared to be intractable and portrayed by some as being ‘eternal’ is now being consigned to the dustbin of history. On 28 September, the last remaining feeble and inglorious vestige of what was left of Armenian separatism on Azerbaijani soil ‘issued its own death warrant’.

    In the latest historic episode of ‘Contemplations with Orkhan Amashov’, the author looks into the significance of the date of 28 September, Vardanyan’s apprehension and charge sheet, together with many other issues central to the present juncture.

    The sheer scale of developments presently taking place in Azerbaijan's Garabagh region is staggering. As of 20 September, there is a new factual reality on the ground, with events unfolding in a chain of enchanting profusion. Baku is establishing the rule of law and order in Garabagh, enforcing its Constitution, and apprehending criminals who have long awaited justice.

    The significance of the date of 28 September is monumental in the annals of Azerbaijani History. But, be in no doubt that even more towering edifices are to be rough-hewn from the Garabagh mountains. Let us try to understand what came to pass during the day preceding the developments of 28 September, the day itself, and what is to come thereafter.

    On 27 September, Ruben Vardnayan, a separatist-busybody tycoon of Armenian ethnicity and Russian connections, with no genuine link to Garbagh, who illegally arrived in the territory of Azerbaijan back in September 2022, was detained whilst trying to cross the Azerbaijani-Armenian state border at the Lachin border checkpoint.

    Vardanyan, who claimed on numerous occasions that he would not leave the region and fight on, actually tried to escape Azerbaijani jurisdiction and ingloriously failed in his erstwhile attempt.

    As the information provided by Azerbaijan's State Security Service states, he is charged under Articles 214.1 (financing terrorism), 279.3 (participation in the creation and activities of illegal armed formations and groups), and 318.1 (illegally crossing the state border of Azerbaijan).

    Videos showing him in handcuffs reveal a corpulent man in fear. His dilated eyes bespeak badly disguised complicity and distinct hopelessness. There will be those who will brand him as a hero. Expect some #FreeRuben hashtags from some pseudo-human rights activists and journalists, such as Andrew Roth of the Guardian. And, also, expect that Azerbaijan will not give in. Justice must be served and should be seen as being served.

    Vardanyan's arrest is also a clear signal to some others presently in Garabagh in relation to whom Azerbaijan has some legal questions, to put it mildly. Arayik Harutyunyan, Arkady Gukasyan, Bako Sahakyan... To name but a few... There is no exhaustive list.

    And what about the self-dissolution of the separatist junta, self-styled as 'nkr'... This illegal and unrecognised entity has always been outside the sphere of law. It has never had any trappings of remote legitimacy and was practically defunct as of 20 September.

    By the time Azerbaijan halted its counterterrorism measures on 20 September, the junta was virtually dissolved. However, ‘virtually’ is a big word.

    The statement issued by Azerbaijan's Defence Ministry on the same day referred to the disbandment and disarmament of the illegal Armenian armed groups operating at the behest of the separatist junta, saying nothing about the "complete institutional dissolution" of the separatist entity itself. Back then, the junta only appeared de facto dissolved, with meaningful meetings being held between the representatives of the local Armenians residing in Garabagh and Baku on 21 and 25 September.

    On 28 September, the entity self-styled as the 'nkr' issued a dissolution decree, stating that: “it will cease to exist by 1 January 2024’. If 20 September marked the end of military separatism, the date of 28 September signifies the death knell of the illegal separatist institutions present in Garabagh. Do not jump to the wrong conclusions and think that the date of 1 January 2024 will mark anything in particular, in a practical sense. But if you insist, let it be a posthumous nail in a hypothetical coffin that awaits imminent conflagration.

    The act of self-dissolution has a profound import, adding that final touch to what Baku’s counterterrorism measures induced on the ground in Garabagh, clearing up the picture even more and opening up brighter prospects for the region, with invaluable lessons provided for others in the post-Soviet realm. It is an act of self-immolation, self-reflection, and self-obituary.

    What could be the legal value of a declaration by an illegal entity? This self-declared abolition could, and will, be imbued with legal implications. Back in May of this year, President Aliyev stated that amnesty in relation to the separatists could be considered, should they dissolve themselves and disarm.

    Vardanyan’s attempts to flee justice and apprehension revealed that no-one amongst the separatists could hope for a reprieve of some kind before self-dissolution and surrender. It is unsurprising that David Babayan, so-called Advisor to the so-called ‘president” of the unrecognised junta, handed himself to the Azerbaijani authorities in Shusha. At this precise moment, I am certain there are others following suit.

    It is high time to address the issue of terminological inexactitude in relation to Garabagh in the international media. Azerbaijan has long stated that there is no administrative division called ‘Nagorno-Karabakh’ inside Azerbaijan. Now, even the formulation of “de facto authorities in Garabagh”, used by some respected analysts with no aim of inadvertently casting aspersions on the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, will become obsolete.

    Amongst the posts and articles I have read today, the most profoundly poignant was shared by H.E. Elin Suleymanov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to the UK. He wrote: “ And so ends a Soviet-engineered ethnic separatism project designed to inflame violence and the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. A model of ethnic division, first applied in Karabakh has been used elsewhere in Eurasia. Don't weep for a failed Soviet legacy. It is time for a peace agreement.”

    Indeed, I could not agree more. It is the best of times for those on the right side of history, be they Azerbaijanis or Armenians. As to the likes of Thomas de Waal, Lindsey Snell, Laurence Broers, and others… Well, one could not care less. Let them wallow in misery and reflect, and even rethink, if they are capable of it.

    This is indeed time for jubilation, celebration, elation, and I would even say, exultation. As Churchill commented at the end of World War II: “We may allow ourselves a short period of rejoicing.”


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