Putin: Armenia Not Recognizing Artsakh was ‘a Significant Factor’

Columnist Harut Sassounian
Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian


President Vladimir Putin of Russia made several important comments in his response to journalists on Nov. 17, regarding the recent Artsakh War ceasefire that he brokered between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The Russian leader started by providing the background of the Artsakh conflict: “It all started in the already remote year of 1988, when ethnic clashes took place in the Azerbaijani city of Sumgait. Armenian civilians fell victim to these events, and later it spread to Nagorno-Karabakh. And since Soviet Union’s leaders did not react duly to these events… let me say it again: these are sensitive issues, and I do not want to side with anyone or decide who was right or wrong. It is no longer possible to determine this now, but it was necessary to put things in order and protect civilians, and this was not done. At that point, the Armenians themselves took up arms, and this protracted conflict, a conflict building for many years broke out.

Eventually, it led to a declaration of independence, sovereignty and self-reliance by Karabakh in 1991. The Bishkek agreements were signed in 1994 and this Bishkek memorandum stopped the hostilities at that time. What happened as a result? Karabakh declared independence, as I have said, and another seven adjacent regions came under the control of Armenians, that is, Armenia.”

In response to a journalist’s comment that “no one recognized Karabagh’s status,” Putin stated: “That is true: no one recognized it then or later. By the way, Armenia itself did not recognize it. …With regard to recognizing or not recognizing Karabakh as an independent state, there may be different approaches, but this undoubtedly was a significant factor, including in the course of the bloody conflict that I hope has ended. Because the very fact of the non-recognition of Karabakh, including by Armenia, has left a deep imprint on the course of events and the way it is perceived. To put it bluntly, after the former Georgian leaders’ undoubtedly criminal moves, I mean the attacks against our peacekeepers in South Ossetia, Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. We recognized the expression of the will of the people living in Crimea to reunite with Russia as just, and we met the people halfway, we did so openly. Some people may like it, others may not like it, but we did it in the interests of the people who live there and in the interests of Russia, and we are not ashamed to speak about it openly. This did not happen with Karabakh, and this, of course, has significantly influenced the developments there.” Later in the interview, Putin added: “Armenia did not recognize the independence and sovereignty of Nagorno-Karabakh. In terms of international law, it meant that Nagorno-Karabakh and the adjoining districts were an inalienable part of the Republic of Azerbaijan.”

This is an important declaration by President Putin. Armenia has been reluctant to recognize Artsakh’s independence out of a concern of a backlash from the international community. It was feared that such a move would have disrupted the peaceful negotiations and could have possibly resulted in war or at least rejection and sanctions against Armenia by the United Nations.

Armenia’s leaders, up until Putin’s above comments, had no idea that not recognizing Artsakh’s independence was viewed by the Russian leader as a mistake, negatively affecting Russia’s support. During the past decades of negotiations with the Minsk Group of mediators, including Russia, one wonders if any of Armenia’s leaders ever asked Putin or his predecessors for their reaction to Armenia’s possible recognition of Artsakh. If Armenia’s leaders did not raise this issue, it was a major mistake. Had Armenia known that Russia would have welcomed its recognition of Artsakh, the subsequent events, including the recent war, would have turned out much different. Some Armenians had suggested that if Artsakh had been united with Armenia, that would have compelled Russia to defend Artsakh from any foreign attacks based on the mutual defense treaty between Russia and Armenia. As I suggested previously, maybe at this late stage, Armenia would finally listen to Putin’s advice and recognize Artsakh’s independence or unify it with Armenia in order to have a bargaining chip in the negotiations with Azerbaijan.
In response to another question regarding the status of Artsakh, Putin stated: “Yes, there is this problem since Karabakh’s final status has not been settled. We have agreed to maintain the status quo. What happens next will be decided eventually by future leaders and future participants in this process. I think if proper conditions are created for normal life and relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, between people in everyday life, especially in the conflict zone, are restored, it will create an environment for determining Karabakh’s status.” This response provides a ray of hope that with time, Artsakh may be able to attain its goal of securing an independent status. Interestingly, President Putin left such a decision to “future leaders and future participants in this process.”

Another question was regarding the territories surrounding Artsakh and the status of Shushi prior to its occupation by Azerbaijan. President Putin explained that the return of the territories surrounding Artsakh to Azerbaijan was first suggested by Russia in 2013 and supported by France and the United States. He said that this would have preserved Artsakh’s status quo “as an unrecognized state,” and its final status to be resolved in the future. Putin stated that there would have been no war if Armenia had agreed to the return of refugees of both sides to their previous homes.

Regarding the City of Shushi, Putin confirmed that its transfer to Azerbaijan was never raised. Putin recalled that 20 days before the end of the war, while Azerbaijan had only conquered “an insignificant part” of Artsakh, he had managed to convince President Aliyev to end the hostilities on condition that Azeri refugees would be able to return to Shushi, under Armenian control in the presence of Russian peacekeepers. However, Prime Minister Pashinyan told Putin that this condition is unacceptable to Armenia and continued the fighting, resulting in the loss of Shushi. President Putin added that there was no “treason” on the part of Pashinyan.

President Putin also made several important deferential remarks regarding Turkey. The Russian leader acknowledged that “Azerbaijan is an independent sovereign state, and has every right to choose allies as it deems fit. Who can deny it this right? This is my first point. Second, as I have already mentioned, nobody has recognized Karabakh’s independence, [not] even Armenia. What does this mean in terms of international law? It means that Azerbaijan sought to recover territories which Azerbaijan and the entire international community view as Azerbaijani territory. In this context, it had the right to choose any ally who could assist it in this endeavor…. You can assess Turkey’s actions any way you want, but it can hardly be accused of violating international law.”

It is noteworthy that Putin did not mention Turkey’s violations of international law by recruiting terrorists from Northern Syria and transporting them to Azerbaijan to fight against Artsakh. Given Russia’s multiple interests in cooperating with Turkey, it is not surprising that he ignored Turkey’s crimes.

President Putin gave an unexpected reason for blocking Turkish peacekeepers from joining Russians in Artsakh. He stated that it was because of “the bitter legacy of the past, the tragic and bloody events that took place during the First World War, the genocide. This is a factor that can be recognized or rejected; some people do and others don’t recognize it. This is not a problem for Russia; we have long recognized it. But why provoke the Armenian side by the presence of Turkish military personnel on the contact line? I believe that President Erdogan was and is fully aware of this.”

Finally, President Putin justified Prime Minister Pashinyan’s agreement to cease the hostilities. He added that any rejection of the signed agreement would be “suicidal” for Armenia…. “It would be a huge mistake.” Putin also acknowledged that even though he had good relations with Armenia’s previous leaders, Russia’s relationship with Armenia did not change after Pashinyan came to power. This statement could be explained by the fact that since the Armenian opposition is critical of Pashinyan signing the ceasefire agreement, Putin is reluctant to criticize him because his opponents, should they come to power, would reject the agreement which could possibly restart the war with Azerbaijan.

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  1. Barséghian Ardachèce said:

    Thank you Mr Sassounian, to appease my conscience I want to recall what THE WORLD KNOWS and dare to bring my point of view when you recall the political-historical flourishing of the country under the authority, first of the USSR and then of the Russian. I have been protesting for 25 years against all these declarations of successive rulers and politicians of the country, these international institutions and media, like Lavrov who have stoked this conflict by declaring with Azerbaijan that we OCCUPES its territories while we LIBERIONS these Armenian lands for centuries by witnessing religious monuments. The policy of imbecile fraternity imposed by Stalin wanted to hand over our lands and its people to 90% Armenian, described as REGION AUTONOMOUS under ADMINISTRATION of Baku, Artsakh and Nakhchivan finally remember that Azerbaijan was not created until 1918. None of the Armenian governments since the implosion of the Soviet system, nor the diaspora parties as a whole, nor therefore the Tachaknaktsoutioun, have been able to stop this information initiated by Azerbaijan. Worse, NEVER the Armenians violated Soviet law and then international public law with the implosion of the Soviet system by claiming the application of the Right to Self-determination, voted by the Armenian people to separate themselves from the Baku ADMINISTRATION. In the same way the Azeri people declared themselves independent of the implosion of the Soviet system. All violations of international law have been consumed against the legal demands of the Armenian people and more serious with this group of MINSK which has claimed equal neutrality to the abandonment of all legal intervention, ultimately granting it to do Turkish-azeri military and Islamist militias. At the very least, they had to carry out their declaration to establish an international peace force, to impose a political debate on the belligerents. categorically opposing the force and the arms sellers. So French Diaspora !!! You are proud of all those Presidents who recognized the Genocide, which promulgated 24 April national day of mourning, which inaugurated commemorative squares … we were confused in eternal recognition … AGAINST PART but our country will disappear and then France could not provide military training to our executives? Conducting joint military exercises with the country abandoning us the sophisticate armament … ??? or diplomatic intervention, or economic sanctions always A EXAMEN, has Russia as co-president ??? Weird I said BIZARRE ??? France was not informed, she said??? Bizarrre I say BIZZARE. Couldn’t Russia, co-president of the neutral MINSK group, or more accurately oppose the Erdoran Sultan, NATO’s second-largest military power ??? Shouldn’t Minsk oppose the will to complete 1915 ??? 100 million citizens assault 3 million Armenians in violation of the law. Repetition of 1923 Lausanne where these same powers buried the supreme crime, putting us beautiful ships to empty our country in favor of the “Turkish” attaturk, in the name of humanitarian action ??? To this day, we have expressed our gratitude ??? Are we normal in political intelligence??? Today, to fill with a good conscience for the naive Armenians France sends humanitarian aid and we applaud ??? So I accuse all the successive Governments of the country, all the political parties of having abandoned the country to their advantage, by billions of dollars, when they knew the only political line of these multiple enemies whose MINSK Group “is to eliminate the Armenian nation” open the way of the Caucasus to Russia. Mr Putin was waiting for this, for Armenia to beg him to intervene and he intervened by burying the violation of international law at our depends, under the complicit eye of his co-president friends. We all suffer from this endless international humiliation, but we are proud, HOURRRAH!, we block the roads, we cry out for help to these rulers who show a feigned action or overdite. So Diaspora, you have edified beautiful strategies, beautiful analyses, beautiful words in claims, the result ??? I say, if 3% of these intelligences had come to the country we would not have suffered this very serious humiliation because, TODAY, we return Kelbadjar to the Turco azeri and militias and I regret to arrive at this fear in conclusion “they settle, THIS DAY, at our borders, with force weapons and military organization as they have just demonstrated to us, we can believe and prepare for the fact that they will not wait 5 years to change the terms of this agreement , without any legal force, to invade our country” all in agreement pre-established by the arms dealers of the MINSK group. Unbelieving,

  2. Barséghian Ardachèce said:

    Unbelieving, who knows, I’m going to light candles in Khorvirab, a madar, For it to be an absolute silliness but the French saying “cat echaude fears cold water” Oh! Finally, YES we are the first Christians, of those Christians of the East whose hot gorges are made in the West to deplore the cultural diversity in favor of Societies harmonious with their differences. GENERALIZED BETRAYAL ABOVE ALL BY OUR FAULT.

  3. Vince Kachatorian said:

    Let’s just say Armenians are poor politicians. Errors after errors.

  4. Ardashes said:

    The Armenian leadership since the beginning of Armenian independence were and are bunch of incapable halfwit and dunce who have been chosen purposely to destroy Armenian nation for ever and we Armenians still let them to do it..