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Freedom House: Armenia’s democratization efforts were adversely affected by the Azerbaijani regime’s brutal offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh

Freedom House human rights organization has published “Nations in Transit 2024” annual report, drawing parallels between the Russian-Ukrainian war and Azerbaijan’s military offensive against Artsakh, calling what happened in Artsakh “ethnic cleansing”.

“A geopolitical reordering is underway in the region stretching from Central Europe to Central Asia. Moscow’s ongoing attempt to destroy Ukraine and the Azerbaijani regime’s inhumane conquest of Nagorno-Karabakh demonstrated once again the deadly consequences of autocracy’s expansion. These and other events in recent years have accelerated a geopolitical reordering in the region, with countries sorting themselves into two opposing blocs: those committed to a liberal, democratic order and those that violently reject it. Autocracies have continued to deepen their repression while cooperating to upend international norms… These regimes have actively supported one another in evading sanctions, crushing domestic opposition, and blunting any accountability for military aggression and other violations of international law. In effect they are creating a new regional order that better suits their interests, and democracies have yet to muster an adequate response,” reads the report.

According to the authors, in the South Caucasus, Armenia’s democratization efforts were adversely affected by the Azerbaijani regime’s violent attack against Artsakh, forcing more than 120,000 ethnic Armenians to leave their homes.

As mentioned in the report, the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 was in no way the main cause of the Azerbaijani regime’s final attack against Artsakh in September 2023.

“Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev had long been explicit about his intent to erase the ethnic Armenian enclave’s de facto independence, having already seized some territory in a 2020 war that ended with a Russian-brokered cease-fire. Still, the Russian attack on Ukraine opened the door to the conquest, as the Kremlin’s attention and resources were diverted from peacekeeping duties in the Caucasus, and the democratic world was similarly absorbed with its efforts to support Kyiv. Baku set the stage for its September offensive with a months-long blockade that deprived Nagorno-Karabakh’s people of essential goods. When the military assault finally came, local defense forces quickly agreed to lay down arms, and the local government was abruptly dissolved. Russia’s peacekeepers made no effort to intervene… Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s military continued to threaten the existence of the Republic of Armenia, having occupied slices of that country’s territory after multiple clashes in recent years,” reads the report.

As noted, Aliyev’s victories—political and military—may have simply increased his appetite. His inauguration speech included new demands for additional Armenian territory.

“Absent any credible deterrents imposed by the United States or the EU, there is an obvious potential for more authoritarian aggression in the Caucasus,” reads the report.


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