“We look forward to seeing the repatriation of the officially approved group of Armenian captives in the nearest future” - PM Addresses the Nation
Dear compatriots, dear people,
Recently we had the most serious escalation in the military situation since November 9. Taking advantage of the fact that the Russian peacekeepers had not yet been deployed to the area, last Saturday Azerbaijan’s Special Forces attacked and took control of the Hin Tagher-Khtsaberd section in Artsakh’s Hadrut region.
Please note that there was no civilian population in that area. Six servicemen of the Artsakh Defense Army were injured in action. We have information about other victims as well, which is being ascertained, because the given area is inaccessible at the moment, and measures are being taken to provide access.
Yesterday I said at the Security Council meeting that it remained yet to be seen why the Russian peacekeepers had not been deployed to the Khtsaberd-Hin Tagher section by Saturday, but the fact is that the peacekeepers did so over the weekend. They have published an updated map of the zone under their responsibility, which comprises the area surrounding Khtsaberd and Taghavard villages.
What does this mean? This means that the peacekeepers of the Russian Federation must ensure that the status of the territory complies with the provisions of the trilateral statement of November 9. This in turn means that since the area was under Armenian control as of the 9th day of the month, it should therefore remain under the control of Armenian forces.
Indeed, the actions taken by Azerbaijan are obviously provocative, but they are also aimed at devaluing the presence of Russian peacekeepers in Artsakh. They tend to demonstrate that the peacekeepers are unable to stop the provocations, and the fate of the Khtsaberd-Hin Tagher section is the first serious test for the Russian peacekeeping mission. Especially considering that the Artsakh Defense Army cannot follow the same logic as the Azeris. I mean, the Armenian side should not take such actions that could directly or indirectly question the effectiveness of the peacekeeping effort.
The next issue that needs to be addressed urgently is the exact demarcation of the border lines between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Syunik region. I addressed this issue yesterday at the Security Council meeting and I want to reaffirm that the November 9 statement did not mention Zangelan and Kubatlu districts, because at the time of signing the declaration, 90% or more of those territories were unfortunately under Azerbaijan’s control. During the negotiations there was an understanding that an exact demarcation should be carried out in that area, which will be done in the coming week. There are sensitive issues for us here, and intensive talks are being held on these issues.
But I would like to emphasize again that Armenia’s internationally recognized borders have remained and will remain intact at any stage of implementation of the November 9 statement, that is, the principle of inviolability of the borders of the Republic of Armenia cannot be questioned in any way, but all unresolved issues need to be addressed through calm and persistent work.
Many are trying to use for some political considerations the painful processes that are going on today. Huge streams of misinformation have been set in motion, most of these streams are controlled from abroad, and we cannot rule out their connection with foreign special services.
I can only give one example: the morning news could give the impression that fighting had raged in Syunik region all night long, while the truth is that the night was just as calm in Syunik as in all nights following the November 9 statement.
We can witness some tensions around Armenia, Artsakh, but that tensions must be managed cold-heartedly, in close cooperation with our strategic partners, which is what we are doing now. In terms of propaganda, I would like to draw your attention once again to the fact that very often the provisions of the hostile and propaganda campaigns implemented by some political forces are the same, and this has been noticeable for many months now.
The next topic I want to address is the issue of captives. I can say that we have even approached the beginning of the process of exchanging the prisoners of war and repatriating our compatriots that are being kept in captivity. We look forward to seeing the repatriation of the officially approved group of Armenian captives in the nearest future.
Our thinking is as follows: At this stage, we should start repatriating those whose captivity has been officially confirmed by Azerbaijan and the Red Cross, and then focus on the search for the missing persons, some of whom may have been captured. This is a very complicated process, and I expect to have our citizens’ understanding, especially the understanding of the families of our missing compatriots.
The search for the bodies of killed servicemen and the identification of unrecognized bodies should be given a new impetus, and everything is being done to complete this process as soon as possible, but unfortunately we will not be able to complete it by the end of the year.
Also, I wish to emphasize that we need to improve the overall environment in order to trace back and find out the whereabouts of missing persons, because as you may understand, the effectiveness of this process does not depend only on us, and we are taking steps to improve the environment, so that we could work more efficiently.
December 19 marks the 40th day of the end of hostilities, and a three-day mourning period will be declared in the Republic of Armenia on December 19. A memorial march will be held from the Republic Square to Yerablur along with several other commemorative events. It is quite possible that not all the bodies of our martyrs may have been found by that time; we have many unrecognized bodies, but I do believe that the adoption of this decision could not be postponed any longer.
I want to assure you again that the search for dead bodies, the identification and the clarification of the whereabouts of missing persons will go intensifying. This process is an important part of the roadmap I made public on November 18, and it cannot be stopped for a minute.
We are also going to implement the other provisions of the Roadmap. The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs visited the region after a long break.
The resumption of negotiations in the Minsk Group format was the first point of the Roadmap. Tens of thousands of Artsakh residents have already returned to their homes; a number of support programs are being implemented to bring them back to normal life. The government has decided to provide assistance to the owners of damaged housing in Armenia and Artsakh. Tuition fees for those students who participated in the war and for the family members of our brothers and sisters who took part in the defense of our homeland will be reimbursed in full. The government has launched a new procedure for reimbursing the medical costs of our soldiers in need of rehabilitative treatment. The decision to make payments to host families in Artsakh and Armenia will be crucial in addressing the needs of homeless people. Our efforts to implement the Roadmap will be continued.
In addition to border security, we have been facing information security threats during these days. The well-known circles have initiated a process of information terrorism against Armenia and the people of Armenia. All kinds of false and half-false information are being disseminated in an effort to exasperate the feeling of anxiety in our citizens and sow panic in society.
It is obvious that the situation we are in is quite complicated, but I would like to state that our primary task is to reinstate stability and security in and around Armenia and Artsakh, and we are working in this direction on a daily basis. I have set a task for official media outlets to respond promptly and more comprehensively to the public’s concerns and provide better media coverage of the ongoing processes.
In this regard, I just want to say that the situation keeps evolving, and the official information is sometimes delayed for one simple reason: There are new developments every day, and as long as there is no record of events, any officially reported piece of information can have a negative impact on the situation, and it is crucial for the public itself to be able to distinguish between true and false streams of information. This problem has not just appeared today, it is one of the most challenging issues in the 21st century. But it should be noted in this context that some pieces of fake information ought to be perceived as such from the very outset. For example, rumors are being circulated without undue complications that the government has ceded Sevan, Jermuk, or Syunik to Azerbaijan. This is indeed an information war, and we will take strong countermeasures. But, I repeat, no one should question the principle of inviolability of Armenia’s state borders.
In this context, I wish to emphasize that for a month now, or maybe more, rumors have been circulated about my family members, my children having left the country. In recent months, especially since the start of the hostilities, no member of my family has left Armenia and is not going to do so. The news about my family’s private houses abroad has already become part of daily updates, and some have made of it the main tool of their struggle.
Meanwhile, you should know that the only real estate my family owns on the planet is the well-known apartment in the Shengavit administrative district of Yerevan. Rumors are circulating about my family’s wealth, while you should all know that we have no other assets than the ones made public.
There is a lot of talk about my resignation, while I have clearly stated that I can give up the status given to me by the people only if there are reliable results of expression of people’s will. Otherwise, I will continue to perform my functions as Prime Minister and I have pledged to do it straightforwardly and honestly. I wish to emphasize once again that the number one task today is to stabilize the security environment around Armenia, and we will consistently follow this path.
Back to the domestic situation, I would like to stress that there are some processes going on, the purpose of which is to ban the people, the citizens of the Republic of Armenia in general, from decision-making and solve issues in closed rooms and within the “family circle” of political elites. This is unacceptable, and the people of the Republic of Armenia have been and will continue to be the owners of power in control of the situation in the Republic of Armenia. And I want to say that I consider myself the guarantor of that reality. The people should be assured that their will is decisive and irreversible in the Republic of Armenia. People should be given an opportunity to express their free will, and all attempts to circumvent that will are doomed to failure. I love you all. Thank you.