Azerbaijani checkpoint blocks road next to Russians meant to keep it open

TBILISI (Reuters) – A new Azerbaijani checkpoint blocking access to an Armenian-held breakaway region is located right next to a base of Russian peacekeepers who are meant to be keeping the road open, footage filmed by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty showed.

Azerbaijan said on Sunday it had installed a checkpoint on the Lachin corridor, the only road connecting Armenia with Karabakh, where 120,000 mostly Armenian inhabitants broke away from Azerbaijan in the 1990s.

The corridor has been mostly closed since December, when Azerbaijani civilians identifying themselves as environmental activists blockaded the road.

Russian peacekeepers, who under the ceasefire agreement which ended a 2020 war for the territory are required to keep the corridor open, have not intervened, angering Armenians.

The footage shows the Azerbaijan checkpoint installed directly beside a Russian military base. Vehicles flying the Russian flag are visible.

“The Azerbaijanis closed the road from their side,” said Vaghinak Arzumanian, a resident of the nearby village of Kornidzor. “The Russians stood by and did nothing.”

Armenia says the installation of the checkpoint is a violation of the ceasefire agreement. The United States said on Sunday it was “deeply concerned” by the development, which it said undermined efforts towards peace in the region.

Azerbaijan said on Sunday it had taken “appropriate measures to establish control at the starting point of the road”.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Peter Graff)