A soldier is seen in front of heavy military vehicles during the April War in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2016.

Source: Google Images

Caption: A soldier is seen in front of heavy military vehicles during the April War in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2016.

Former Armenian PM: "We occupied Karabakh with support from Russia"

Hrant Bagratyan: "If it had not been for the Russian Prime Minister, Armenians would not have Karabakh"

Former Armenian Prime Minister Hrant Bagratyan recently stated that Nagorno-Karabakh was occupied with Russian support, which has started a public debate in Azerbaijan.

Bagratyan, who was Armenia's Prime Minister in the 1990s, said in an interview on the "Profile" program on Armenian television that had it not been for then Russian Prime Minister Yegor Gaydar, Armenians would not have Karabakh at the moment.

He suggested that a street in Yerevan or Khankandi should be named after Yegor Gaydar.

Sharing his memories of the Nagorno-Karabakh war, he said that a fierce war was under way in Karabakh in 1992. The Azerbaijani army, which had just been formed, liberated more than half of the administrative territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and had advanced to within several kilometers of Khankandi, Bagratyan said.

"We were being defeated in the summer of 1992. There was no way out. The enemy had entered Gandzasara (the village of Vang in Agdara District). Everything had collapsed. I was not prime minister yet. It seems that it had already been decided. The Azerbaijani army was to enter Khankandi and afterward we were to sit down for talks."

Bagratyan rejected to elaborate more and urged one of the best streets in the capital city of Yerevan as well as in Khankandi to be named after Gaydar.

"Hrant Bagratyan is right"

Sulhaddin Akbar, who was first deputy national security minister of Azerbaijan at that time, told Meydan TV that Hrant Bagratyan's remarks are true.

"At that time, the Azerbaijani army approached Khankandi, and the Lachin corridor was under our control. It was after that moment that provocations against Azerbaijan started."

"Armenia was not capable of managing it"

Akbar added that it was Russia waging the Nagorno-Karabakh war against Azerbaijan. In that context, Armenia is only acting as its advocate.

"When the situation at the front changed, Armenia was not capable of managing it. Russia had to come to the forefront. Russia was also directly involved in the occupation of Kalbajar."

"Armenians begged us to give them a corridor so they could withdraw into Armenia"

Former Azerbaijani Defence Minister Rahim Gaziyev says that the Azerbaijani army took a major offensive in October 1992. The war was to end within a short period of time.

"The Armenian separatists begged us to give them a corridor so they could withdraw into Armenia. However, Heydar Aliyev spoke to Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrosyan, and we lost because he infiltrated traitors into President Abulfaz Elchibey's team."

"Why was the appeal that Belyan brought not discussed in parliament?"

Rahim Gaziyev says that Armenian MP Ashot Belyan at the time brought an appeal to Baku that was signed by 55 Armenian MPs. The appeal suggested that the matter be discussed:

"Ashot met with National Assembly Speaker Isa Gambar. The question is, why was the appeal that Belyan brought not discussed in parliament? Back at the time, the Lachin corridor had been narrowed down to 1 km. We were near Khankandi. A total of 52 population centers in Kalbajar and 14 in Gubadli had been cleared. Imagine what situation Armenia was in."

"The National Independence Party's objection to talks halted the process"

Security expert Ilham Ismayil did not hold a government post at the time. However, he remembers the developments well. He says the Azerbaijani army was close to the Lachin corridor. The Armenians channeled all of their strength into preventing the road from being closed:

"Kalbajar was in Azerbaijan, too. As far as I know, a proposal arrived from Armenia and Moscow that the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region be reinstated. Russia also wanted the corridor to remain for Armenians to be able to travel. Abulfaz Elchibey was informed about the matter. However, the opposition National Independence Party's (Milli İstiqlal Partisi) categoric objection to talks halted the process."

Ilham Ismayil says that after Azerbaijan disagreed, Russia intervened in the matter. Consequently, the Azerbaijani army started retreating at the end of the summer:

"In addition, Heydar Aliyev met with Levon Ter-Petrosyan not in August 1992 but several months before Kalbajar was occupied. In fact, that was a separate agreement. The National Assembly decided that Heydar Aliyev should come and provide explanations as to why he had gone for a separate agreement. He had done so because Armenia pulled its troops back at the Nakhchivan border and occupied Kalbajar with support from Russia."

Isa Gambar, the leader of the National Center for Strategic Thinking, has said that Russia increased its support for Armenia toward the end of the year 1992. From this point of view, the Armenian Prime Minister's statement can be viewed as a confession:

"However, I have so far not had any information regarding Gaydar's involvement in this matter. Hrant Bagratyan may have come up with those statements in order to cover up the illegal intervention by the Russian army, Defense Minister Pavel Grachyov and others in that matter. If I had more information, I would be able to make a more specific comment," says Gambar.

He said there were various reasons for the halt to the Azerbaijani army's offensive:

"Russia's intervention, however, was the main factor. The treasons of the 5th column were yet another manifestation of the Russia factor."

Isa Gambar made the following comment about Rahim Gaziyev's remarks regarding the appeal signed by 55 Armenian MPs:

"After the matter was discussed within the leadership of the country, we tried to explain to the Armenian MP who visited Azerbaijan that an appeal by several MPs was not enough and only Armenia's official position could be a subject of discussion and that to that end, there should be an appeal either by the president or parliament of Armenia".

Fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan started over Nagorno-Karabakh in the late 1980s and escalated into full-scale war in 1991, killing about 30,000 people before a ceasefire was launched. A Russian-brokered ceasefire signed in 1994 left Nagorno-Karabakh and swathes of Azerbaijani territory around the enclave in Armenian hands.

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