Armenia detains anti-Russia protesters
At least 65 protesters were arrested in Armenia's second city of Gyumri on Jan. 8 as authorities dispersed a rally outside a Russian military base. Activists were demanding that Yerevan cut ties with Moscow amid a deepening stand-off with Azerbaijan over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. A livestream of the rally showed demonstrators struggling with police officers, including troops from the notorious Red Berets anti-riot squad, while crowds chanted slogans calling for Armenia's withdrawal from the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Armenia, unlike rival Azerbaijan, is a CSTO member. But the military alliance has drawn popular ire as Russian "peacekeepers" have failed to re-open the Lachin Corridor, the only access in or out of Nagorno-Karabakh, which has been closed by Azerbaijan for almost a month—leaving 100,000 ethnic Armenians trapped, with supplies of food and medicine running low. (Eurasianet)
The corridor was supposed to remain open under terms of the November 2020 ceasefire deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan. But the corridor has been blocked since Dec. 12 by Azeri activists, who charge that unregulated mining operations in Nagorno-Karabakh are causing environmental damage to the territory. The activists are ostensibly demanding that Baku be allowed to inspect the "illegal" ore mines. Azerbaijan's authorities have acquiesced in the roadblocks. (Moscow Times, HRW, RFE/RL)
Acceding to popular pressure, Yerevan has announced that Armenia will not be participating in the latest round of annual CSTO military drills. The drills were to take place in Armenian territory, as a different CSTO member hosts them each year on a rotating system. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said hosting the upcoming exercise would be "inappropriate in the current situation." (Moscow Times, DW, Al Jazeera)
Armenians protest blockage of Lachin corridor
Armenians rallied May 20 near the border with Azerbaijan to protest the blockade of the Lachin corridor, only road to the disputed area of Nagorno-Karabakh. Footage of the rally shows thousands gathering to demand the lifting of the blockade.
Meetings were held in Moscow a day earlier between Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, Azerbaijan foreign minister Jeyhun Bayramoc and Armenian foreign minister Ararat Mirzoyan, the first step in a dialogue to discuss removing the blockade. (Jurist)