Artsakh Republic State Minister Ruben Vardanyan gave an interview to BBC’s Hard Talk program.
The video can be downloaded here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEIH6OYAyhg
The interview is translated below.
Steven Sakur – Mr. Vardanyan, maybe our HardTalk audience doesn’t know much about Nagorno Karabakh, but you are the Minister of State for a small area with a population of about 120,000 and right now you are in an urgent crisis because your land route to Armenia is currently is surrounded. What is the situation of people living in your area today?
Ruben Vardanyan – First of all, I want to thank you for this interview. It is very important that the world knows what is happening in the besieged country and that 120,000 people who have lived in their homeland for millennia have been fighting for their independence for the last 35 years. Since December 12, Azerbaijani “eco-activists” have blocked the road and with the support of Azerbaijan, they announce that they are now in control of the road. Currently, we do not receive anything except the help of the Red Cross and Russian peacekeepers. we have 30,000 children here, it’s winter, electricity is limited, mostly there is no gas. Without the help of the Red Cross and Russian peacekeepers, food, medicine and gasoline do not enter our territory.
Steven Sakur – So the Red Cross is making sure that some medicine is supplied, but I noticed that you have implemented a voucher system to provide sugar, pasta, rice, oil, but it seems that if this continues, your area will not be long. can survive, right? People will suffer and this cannot continue.
Ruben Vardanyan – First of all, the Red Cross has only one or two trucks, they and the Russian gamekeepers can bring a very limited amount of medicine or food. Then, you have no idea how strong the Armenians of Artsakh are. We have been living here for thousands of years and we are very determined to stay in our homeland. As I said, this fight has been going on for 35 years and we are defending our territory and we believe in our values. Despite all the difficulties we are facing, I believe that the people will stand firm and remain devoted to their homeland.
Steven Sakur – You just named your territory Artsakh, I must clarify that while you call it Artsakh, the government of Azerbaijan as well as the international community calls it Nagorno Karabakh, so I just want to clarify that. What confuses me the most is that you have about 2,000 Russian soldiers, peacekeepers, in your territory. Now, why don’t they open the way for supplies to arrive?
Ruben Vardanyan – Before answering this question, I want to say that if you look at the history textbooks of the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan in the 80s, the same name Artsakh is mentioned as an Armenian territory. I am not saying anything new, this was already in the Soviet years, in the Azerbaijani school history books. And now let’s return to your question.
First of all, people need to understand that there are only 2,000 peacekeepers, and they have a very limited mandate to use weapons, and the way is formally blocked by “eco-activists”, who are civilians. Without illusions, the number of soldiers is small, they only have light weapons, and they do not have the right to shoot. That is why it is always very difficult for any peacekeeper to intervene between the two sides if the conflict continues.
Steven Sakur – But the truth is, Mr. Vardanyan, that Vladimir Putin has bigger problems at the moment. The invasion of Ukraine has led to a war that is draining Moscow’s resources, and the last thing Putin, frankly, wants to do is get involved in the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. This is the truth. This makes you much more vulnerable, doesn’t it? Because Russia’s support is not visible.
Ruben Vardanyan – First of all, I don’t know what is happening in Russia’s decision-making field, but we are limited by the document signed by Azerbaijan-Armenia-Russia on November 9, 2020, by which the number of soldiers was limited by the Azerbaijani side, so I don’t know what you are talking about. , they sent it, they didn’t send it, but we follow the document we signed, which Azerbaijan completely violates today. Because they guaranteed an open road for Armenians living in Artsakh without any control, and now they are violating it.
Stephen Sakur – Yes, I understand that there was a misunderstanding involving the government of Armenia, the government of Azerbaijan, but what is interesting to me is that the government of Armenia, led by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, is now strongly criticizing Moscow, saying that the Russian peacekeepers are failing. are their responsibilities. But it is interesting that you criticize Moscow much less, why?
Ruben Vardanyan – You know, I advise you to come here and you will understand how important it is when you are surrounded by a country of 10 million people, which has a lot of money, a lot of weapons, and we only have 120,000 people with 30,000 children to protect. , and we have 2000 Russian soldiers. I want to ask you this question: are you ready to discredit the people who are with you in this situation?
Steven Sakur – Yes, I am in London, you are in Nagorno Karabakh, this is your reality that you have to deal with, and right now it seems that not only the Russians are not helping you, but also your relationship with Armenia and in particular with Prime Minister Pashinyan. they get worse. It seems that the government in Yerevan does not have a working relationship with you.
Ruben Vardanyan – I don’t know about this information, by the way, the number one official in our country, the president, is always on good terms with the prime minister, that’s why I don’t know what you’re talking about, and this is manipulation, which I’m not sure makes sense. has touched on during our conversation.
Steven Sakur – I think it is important to consider your past and why you are in Nagorno Karabakh today. You are a very wealthy man, having earned at least a billion dollars thanks to a business career in Moscow that coincided with the rise of Vladimir Putin. From this it becomes clear that you two are quite close. Why did you decide to renounce Russian citizenship last year, which requires Putin’s special permission, left Russia and decided to live in Nagorno-Karabakh? Why did you do that?
Ruben Vardanyan – First of all, I started my business in 1991 with $35,000 from American investors, building the best investment bank in the region and bringing many investors and largest companies to Russia. I have done business in England, USA. I am a board member of various companies in 30 countries, I have implemented charity and social programs in many places. So I think your conclusion about my closeness with Vladimir Putin is not correct because I have worked with many people who are part of the government and working in the private sector in many different countries and that is why…
Stephen Sakur – You know that the OCCRP and the Navalny Anti-Corruption Foundation have both accused you of doing, so to speak, questionable business in the past. You have never been charged with anything, yet there are claims that you were part of the oligarchic system that Vladimir Putin controlled, which partly explains your great wealth.
Ruben Vardanyan – Look, this publication happened 4 years ago, and I continued to stay and hold positions in many international organizations for four years, which confirms that people who know the truth, people who know me personally, understand what all those statements without any proof mean. claims because no legal action has ever taken place in any country.
There are ongoing allegations about King Charles, George Clooney, and other colleagues and friends of mine who have worked with me on various projects, such as the Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, and many other people I have had the honor of knowing and working with. And that’s why, with all due respect to journalists, those claims were just being published without any evidence, and secondly, the financial institution that I ran at the time had trillions of dollars in turnover with hundreds of thousands of customers. and accusing Ruben Vardanyan of doing something was like J.P. Blaming Morgan or Citibank. I think this is really manipulation and you are repeating this information too…
Steven Sakur – I’m just referring to the notes, and you can of course dispute what I said. But the truth is that Azerbaijan in particular says that you, and I am quoting the Baku-based political analyst Elkhan Shahinoglu, says: Ruben Vardanyan is Moscow’s man in Karabakh and the president is preparing you to take full responsibility in Nagorno-Karabakh. Is that your intention?
Ruben Vardanyan – You know, I thought that our discussion would be about human rights, the created situation and this disaster, and if you give in to these speculations, especially from the Azerbaijani side, we can talk endlessly. I would rather talk about how 120,000 people are surviving in this terrible time under the pressure of the political party or “eco-activists”. By the way, I advise you to check how many environmental protests there have been in Azerbaijan over the past 30 years, and how many times Aliyev’s authoritarian regime has allowed Azerbaijanis, not Armenians, to speak any oppositional words against it. We are talking about something that really surprises me, you do not touch on what is happening here now and what is the behavior of Azerbaijan. By the way, today the European Parliament…
Stephen Sakur – I’m more than interested in talking about what’s going on, but what’s going on is obviously part of a bigger picture. The bigger picture is that the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in this region has been going on for many decades. What we saw in 2020 was that the Azeri troops won a big victory, and you lost more than two-thirds of the territory you controlled by 2020. You now control a small enclave that is isolated by an economic blockade, and it seems to me that your only realistic option is to either make a political deal with Azerbaijan, or the people, the Armenian community of Nagorno-Karabakh, will decide that the situation is no longer sustainable. and will leave. So what’s going to happen, the politics or the exit?
Ruben Vardanyan – First, let me finish. Today, the European Parliament approved a resolution with a harsh message to President Aliyev, demanding to unblock the road. Not only Russia, but also France, the European Parliament and the USA are surprisingly unanimous on this issue, which is really very special, because we all know what the relations between major European countries and Russia are like today. The second…
Steven Sakur – Mr. Vardanyan, even if the blockade is lifted, my question remains how the Nagorno Karabakh community can be viable in the long term. Even the Armenian government says that this is no longer a territorial issue, they no longer pretend to make Nagorno Karabakh an independent state or a part of Armenia. In Yerevan, they say that this is simply a matter of rights, a matter of negotiated guarantees of human rights and security for the Armenian community in your territory. Everything suggests that in the long term you will be part of the sovereign state of Azerbaijan. Do you accept that?
Ruben Vardanyan – Back in the Soviet period, in 1988, the people of Artsakh said that they would never be part of Azerbaijan. They are fighting for their freedom and have taken all necessary legal steps.
And today we ask a very simple question to the world, saying: Do we have the right to self-determination in a state that violates all human rights against its own people? How can we live in a country where a family runs the country every 44 years out of the 104 years of Azerbaijan’s existence (first as part of the Soviet Union, and then as an independent republic), where an Azerbaijani does not have any rights, I am not even talking about Armenians. How do you imagine the possibility for a national minority, as they treat us, to get any rights, to get any protection? For us, this is not a matter of will or not. we see no possibility. By the way, the last example in this blockade was very obvious. Children who were separated from their families and stranded in Armenia, unable to return, six weeks later, they tried to return to Artsakh through Russian peacekeepers, and the Azerbaijanis stopped them, checked them, subjected them to psychological pressure. Xenophobia is so high, that’s why…
Steven Sakur: I want to be clear about that, sorry to interrupt, but you say that you and, of course, frankly, many people say that right now you are in charge of Nagorno Karabakh, you say that you are not ready in any way Have you not held any negotiations or dialogues with President Aliyev and the government of Azerbaijan?
Ruben Vardanyan – No, we are ready to negotiate if the Azerbaijani side understands that the negotiation is for both sides. Because what we have said since the first day of demanding independence, we understand and accept that we will live side by side, but we will be a separate territory, a separate state, there will be separate orders and laws, because we are a democratic country, here 4 President, we don’t see ourselves as part of Azerbaijan, but we have to live in the same region, we have to find a way, despite all the difficulties, to find a solution that will be acceptable to both sides, because…
Steven Sakur – So, I understand that you fundamentally disagree with the government in Yerevan, who says that now the issue is simply negotiating the right deal for your people, frankly, within Azerbaijan. They say it is a matter of rights to guarantee the human rights and security rights of your people, but they say it is no longer a matter of territory or sovereignty.
Ruben Vardanyan – First of all, the government of Armenia, the leader of Armenia said that whatever decision the leaders of Artsakh make, they will follow our choice. We have already received clear signals from France, the United States, and Russia, they also do not consider this issue closed. Despite all the rhetoric of Azerbaijan, thanks to the international community, the UN discussions and the UN Security Council, it became clear that everything is not over, because we have the right to self-determination, because ethnic cleansing is prohibited by the UN Charter. Despite all the speculations of Azerbaijan, the story is not over. We believe that we have the right to independence, we have our right to live in our own homeland, most of the people living in Artsakh understand the difficulties we are facing and are ready to stay and defend their home.
Steven Sakur – Yes, you say that everything is not over, but Russia is a big factor in all this. I mean, Armenia has relied on Russia’s military support for decades. I wonder what lessons you have learned from Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, do you consider that war to be condemnable first of all and do you see it as a dangerous lesson for Armenia?
Ruben Vardanyan – You see, I am now the state minister of a small republic where 120,000 people are suffering as a result of the unprecedented actions of the Azerbaijani state, and I am responsible for protecting the children who live here and my nation, and I will do everything for their protection. That’s why I will answer this question like this: I will do everything necessary to protect Artsakh.
Steven Sakur – But that’s not the answer at all. I just asked you if you would condemn Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Ruben Vardanyan – And I answer you by saying that in order to protect my people, it would be correct to remain silent in this situation, because I think that if my answer about the position of Russia, France, the United States could harm the possibility of receiving international support, it would be wrong to interpret it. That is why, with all due respect and pain for what is happening in various conflicts, by the way, not only in Ukraine, but also in Yemen, Syria and many other places in the world, I am only interested in what will happen to my with the people who have been under siege for more than 30 days, without electricity, without gas.
Steven Sakur – The point is that your words contradict the opinion of Armenians living in Armenia, because they are very worried about the consequences of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Let me quote the words of Beniamin Poghosyan, the head of Yerevan Center for Political and Economic Strategic Studies, who says: “It becomes obvious that we can no longer rely on Russia. Even if Russia completely withdraws from the war against Ukraine, they may try to include Armenia in some kind of union state with Belarus, and that is not what we want.” Do you want that? What do you think, the fate and future of Armenia is with Russia, Putin’s Russia?
Ruben Vardanyan – I don’t want to talk about Armenia, we are a separate country. I am talking about Artsakh, Artsakh does not want to be part of Azerbaijan, this is clear.
Stephen Sakur – Are you satisfied with long-term reliance on Vladimir Putin?
Ruben Vardanyan – What do you mean?
Steven Sakur – I mean, it is quite clear, it seems that you are saying that we are now politically quite far from Yerevan, from the government of Armenia. Therefore, your only guarantor, your only hope for survival is Vladimir Putin.
Ruben Vardanyan – This is not true, President Macron clearly stated and is making great efforts to support Artsakh. By the way, the speaker of the French Senate also made the same statement. Recently, the US ambassador said that they will cooperate with Russia and try to find a solution to help Artsakh get out of this situation. Therefore, you are manipulating a little now, because the largest Western countries, such as, for example, France, the USA, are also sending a clear message that they are concerned about the events here.
Steven Sakur – You know, there are people in Nagorno-Karabakh, in your small community, who think that your becoming the Minister of State had bad consequences. For example, Bella Lalayan says that you have only created more problems and endangered their safety. Some want you out, and they want you out now.
Ruben Vardanyan – It is normal that people have different opinions. I am a happy person that I am here with the people of Artsakh, every day I walk the streets, I see people who…
Steven Sakur – The thing is that many people in Nagorno Karabakh think that you are a foreigner. You came from Moscow, you created wealth in Russia, you were not born in Nagorno Karabakh, you were born in Yerevan. Many people in Nagorno-Karabakh wonder if you really represent their interests.
Ruben Vardanyan – About my origin. my grandmother is from Artsakh, I have implemented about 89 projects in Artsakh over the last 20 years, my son served in the army here, my daughter was here, so what you are saying is just speculation that people make up. Of course, this can be seen everywhere, and some make up dirty stories without looking at the real story. I came here on September 2, 2022 and said that I am no different from anyone else. I didn’t fake anything to get this position. The president suggested me, but I am happy to stay here without any position, and I will stay. I don’t care if I will be a state minister or not, I am here with the people who need my support, not because I am rich, but because we want people outside of Artsakh to realize that Artsakh belongs to the entire Armenian people. is the key to identity
Stephen Sakur – Let’s clarify and summarize, because we are running out of time. You’re not going anywhere, is that your message?
Ruben Vardanyan – I will say that I will stay here with my people, whatever we face, we will face together, yes.
Stephen Sakur – Thanks for joining HardTalk.
Ruben Vardanyan – Thank you.
Ամբողջական հոդվածը կարող եք կարդալ այս հասցեով՝ : https://hraparak-am.translate.goog/post/1a33def4822d484357a69ca1cdf89660?_x_tr_sl=hy&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en&_x_tr_pto=nui,sc
© 2008 – 2021 «Հրապարակ օրաթերթ»