Armenia condemned yesterday the attitude of Belarus, a member of two Russian alliances of former Soviet states, for arrested and extradited to Azerbaijan a Russian-Israeli blogger who visited Nagorno-Karabakh several times .
A senior representative of the Republican Party criticized Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and said Yerevan should demand the expulsion of Belarus from one of these blocs: the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
Blogger Alexander Lapshin was transported to Baku on Tuesday evening, just after the Belarus Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision authorizing his extradition to Azerbaijan because of his trips to Karabagh. Lukashenko had predicted such a verdict late last week as he firmly defended Lapshin’s arrest in Minsk.
“The persecution of Alexander Lapshin and his extradition to Azerbaijan is a blatant violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of speech and movement,” said Tigran Balayan, spokesman for the Armenian Foreign Ministry .
Balayan expressed confidence at the same time that the precedent established by the Belarusian authorities would not discourage foreigners from visiting Karabagh without Baku’s permission. “There is no doubt that the influx of political and public personalities, artists, journalists and tourists into Artsakh will not stop but, on the contrary, will multiply,” he said. a statement.
The extradition of Lapshin provoked a storm of criticism in the Armenian Parliament yesterday morning. Deputies representing the HHK launched unprecedented verbal attacks against Lukashenko. The deputy speaker of parliament, Eduard Sharmazanov, who is also the main spokesman for the HHK, said it was the result of a “dirty deal” with Baku.
“As Co-Chair of the Armenian-Belarusian Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, I say on behalf of our committee that this is a shameful decision that does not stem from the logic of a peaceful settlement of Karabakh,” insisted Sharmazanov in the Parliament. “It is a movement against Russia, Armenia, and the peaceful settlement of the conflict.”
“No democratic regime could have taken such a step,” Sharmazanov added, clearly referring to the fact that Lukashenko has long been heavily criticized by Western powers and non-governmental watchdogs regarding human rights.
Vahram Baghdasarian, parliamentary leader of the HHK, accused Lukashenko of extraditing Lapshin to Azerbaijan in exchange for an Azerbaijani state medal he received from President Ilham Aliyev during a visit to Baku in November . The blogger was arrested two weeks after the visit.
Baghdasarian rejected some calls by opposition politicians to Armenia to suspend its membership in the CSTO. “We should rather raise the issue of ending Belarus’s membership in the CSTO,” he said.
The Russian government has on several occasions warned Minsk against the extradition of its citizen. The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed yesterday its “deep disappointment”, saying that the extradition “does not correspond to the spirit of the alliance between Russia and Belarus.”
The Azerbaijani authorities claiming that Lapshin illegally entered the “occupied territories of Azerbaijan” when he visited Karabakh in 2011 and 2012 without their authorization. The 40-year-old, who holds Israeli, Russian and Ukrainian passports, has written extensive travel reports on his Russian-language blog.
Baku officially listed 600 non-Armenian foreigners who traveled to Karabakh from Armenia. The black list includes 180 journalists.