Are the separatists on the run from the sinking of Artsakh, or are new provocations on the horizon?

01.09.23 21:43

By all indications, the "French PR" with Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo did not bring the desired results for the "Artsakh" separatists. The "international resonance" of the French "humanitarian aid" to the allegedly "starving blockaded Artsakh" was practically zero. This means that it will definitely not be possible to save the Artsakh separatist project with the help of France. Moreover, France has its own, more pressing concerns - first and foremost in Africa.

In Gabon, until recently an unconditional "fiefdom" and African colony of Paris, one of the richest in resources (including oil), there has been a coup d'état. It is very likely that, after Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, this country will also fall out of full French control. In such a situation, Paris may prioritise its "African" policy over its "Armenian" policy in order not to disperse its forces and resources.

After communicating with Anne Hidalgo by video link, the separatist so-called "president" of "Artsakh" resigned. This is quite natural, since Araik Harutyunyan, like his patron in Yerevan, Nikol Pashinyan, relies primarily on Western (including French) support.
Araik Harutyunyan's relations with the Kremlin's proxies (with Ruben Vardanyan) are, to put it mildly, "not good". Apparently, Araik Harutyunyan and his "team" are leaving the doomed ship "Artsakh". On 31 August 2023, the "pro-Russian" Armenian nationalist Mika Khachaturyan reacted with great glee to the news of Araik Harutyunyan's departure:

"The Shakespearean passions in Araik Harutyunyan's head have calmed down, as have his business affairs, and not just in Armenia.
The petrol stations are bought, the money is parked, the suitcases are packed, the mistresses are taken care of and it is possible to leave.
Tomorrow Araik Harutyunyan will resign, after Gurgen Nersesyan was sacked.
Samvel Sergeyevich Shahramanyan, Secretary of the Security Council of the Republic of Artsakh, who has wide powers, will be appointed Minister of State.
Won't you have a seat on the road, Araik? For fifteen years?"

We agree with Mika Khachaturyan on the latter point. To be fair, Araik Harutyunyan should be in prison - preferably in an Azerbaijani prison. Along with the other separatist leaders who, by all appearances, are beginning to leave Karabakh after Araik Harutyunyan.

However, the pro-Russian Armenian lobby and revanchists have apparently not yet accepted the fact that they will have to leave Azerbaijani soil once and for all. It is highly probable that the Kremlin, while trying its best to conclude a temporary ceasefire in Ukraine or somehow "freeze" the Ukrainian war, will simultaneously try to save the "Artsakh" separatists. Without this separatist project, which was the first in the USSR and an example for all other separatists, Moscow will inevitably "fall" other projects, including Sukhumi and Tskhinvali.

It is no coincidence that Araik Harutyunyan's resignation apparently coincided with the "rotation" of the commander of the Russian "peacekeepers" in Karabakh. Major General Kirill Kulakov has been appointed the new commander of the Russian peacekeepers in Karabakh. He will replace Colonel General Alexander Lentsov, who has been in the post for only 4 months. Kulakov, 54, has been head of the Kazan Higher Military Command School since 2017. From 2014 to 2017, he commanded the 7th Guards Armoured Red Banner of the Suvorov, Kutuzov and Alexander Nevsky Orders of the Orenburg Cossack Brigade.

It remains to be seen what the new commander of the Russian peacekeepers will do. However, there is a danger that the "Tskhinvali scenario" of saving the separatists will be launched under the new commander. It should be recalled that in August 2008, Russia's large-scale invasion of Georgia was preceded by provocations with the participation of Russian "peacekeepers". During this armed provocation organised by the Tskhinvali separatists (shelling of Georgian villages and positions), the violent reaction of the Georgian side was declared by the Kremlin propaganda as an alleged "attack on Russian peacekeepers".

Armenian political scientist Ishkhan Verdyan, who is well acquainted with the separatist "kitchen", sees Araik Harutyunyan's flight from Karabakh as an alarming omen. He believes it is bad news and will have a negative impact on the future of the Armenian-Azerbaijani peace process:

"Araik Harutyunyan's departure is bad news for the peace process. For all his abominations, Arak remained Pashinyan's man, a man who could theoretically consider a possible dialogue with Azerbaijan.
Whoever takes his place will represent the pro-Russian forces of revenge, with completely unpredictable results.

It should be added that according to the so-called "Constitution of Artsakh", the resignation of the "President" must inevitably lead to the dissolution of the "Parliament". If the "parliament" is not dissolved, it will mean that the quasi-state entity "Artsakh" will lose any legitimacy under its own laws, i.e. it will turn into a pure terrorist organisation".

Therefore, provocations with attempts to rescue the doomed "Artsakh" separatists in the zone of responsibility of the Russian peacekeepers cannot be ruled out. This could ultimately spell disaster for the current peace process and lead to a new "great war" in the South Caucasus.

But much will depend on what the situation on the Ukrainian front looks like for the Russian Federation and whether it will be possible to "freeze" it. The Kremlin obviously cannot afford a large-scale war "on two fronts", no matter how much it would like to save the "Artsakh" separatist project.

George Kvinitadze

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