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Liberation of Lachin Recalls Tragic Memories of Local Azerbaijanis

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Lachin is a district in the territories of Azerbaijan that remained under the occupation of Armenia from the early 1990s until the end of 2020. The district hosts the major land passage between Armenia and the parts of Karabakh that is under the temporary control of Russia’s peacekeeping contingent deployed to the area in November 2020 in accordance with the trilateral [Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan] statement that ended the Second Karabakh War. The land passage called the Lachin corridor passes through the central part of the Lachin district and is used by Armenia to communicate with Armenians based in Karabakh. Dozens of Armenian families moved to Lachin from Armenia, Syria and other parts of the world after the occupation of the region in the early 1990s and some of them continued to live in this region even after the 2020 war.

According to the trilateral statement, the sides agreed to build a new highway in three years along the Lachin corridor. The new road would bypass the Lachin town which is returning to the control of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has already paid the new highway along the new route while the Armenian side has just started construction works on its territories. As the previous land passage is now returning to the control of Azerbaijan, some supposedly dramatic scenes were recorded in this process as the Armenians settled in the Lachin district refused to leave the region calling it their home. As stated above, they all have settled in Lachin after the 1992 – the year until which the district was home to around 60,000 Azerbaijanis who were forcefully expelled from their homes by the Armed Forces of Armenia. My family was among the victims.

For as long as I can remember, in my family I have always heard about the atrocities committed by Armenians in Lachin, in the village of Zabukh where I was born… When I was 11 months old, we were displaced from my ancestral home together with my two sisters aged 3 and 5. Sometimes I think that my heart would have broken down or I would have gone mad if I was old enough to comprehend the atrocities committed by Armenians.

My sister, who was 5 years old then, recalls these tragic scenes in more detail. Below I am presenting some of her memories.

…As our village is on the border with enemies, after the situation escalated in early 1992, gunshots were heard almost every day.  But the sound heard that day was different from the others. On that day, we were forced to leave our house where I was born and grew to 5 years old. A car approached our door; they loaded our important things into the car. For me, my most important things – my toys – were left.  I was crying and was asking to take the box where I put my toys. They said, there is no room, let it stay at home, we will come back anyway.  They also put us in the car. I can’t still forget how my dog, which we called “Khalli” was looking after us.  I cried and said, ‘Khalli left, I want her.’

Since my father was in the voluntary defense regiment, my uncles brought us – my mother, my sisters and me – to my paternal grandmother’s village in Gulabir. On the road, all the cars were under artillery and cannon fire from Armenia, so the drivers had to turn off the lights of the cars. One shot hit the car in front of us.  The car burned before our eyes.  They said that a 24-year-old young man was on fire, and his mother wanted to scream, but the people around him covered his mouth with their hands, because the Armenians were shooting in the direction of the sound. We should make no light and keep absolute silence. Two things that could have eased a child’s fear of the dark were suddenly taken away.

Then we ran to the place called “thorn ground” and from there to the forest.  We didn’t know where we were going in the dark forest. Suddenly the cry of nature mixed with the cry of children – a terrible rain began.  My uncle and aunt held us, and my pregnant mother held my youngest sister.  Our clothes were thin; it was very cold to us. The blanket my mom used to wrap us was completely wet.  The heavy rain made the wool blanket even heavier.  But my mother was still grateful, as Armenians stopped firing because of the rain. We managed to make our way back through the muddy forest and arrived at Gulabir by a random car.  We were weak and exhausted.  In that village, they had completely cut off the electricity and gas, and it was not possible to find even a cup of hot tea for my baby sister to drink.

Next day in the early morning, we arrived at my grandmother’s house, located in the village of Guzanli, Agdam.  My grandfather’s grave left in Lachin, in the village of Zabukh.  That’s where my childhood left as well…

Lachin was considered an inaccessible castle, rich in material and spiritual, natural resources, and mysterious in nature. We had to miss our beautiful homeland for up to three decades.  Not only did Armenians kill our people, but they also destroyed our historical monuments, destroyed cemeteries, plundered our wealth and carried out ethnic cleansing.

Hardly any Armenians lived on permanent basis in Lachin or in our village before the occupation. In 1995, Armenians from the Middle East were brought and settled in 12 villages of Lachin.  One of those villages is our village of Zabukh.  They plowed up the cemetery in Zabukh – my grandfather’s grave was also there… They built a church 15-20 meters from our house. They destroyed the school building and many other buildings… And some of them started a new life there calling Lachin their home. They have always been thoughtless of the fact that you have no moral or legal right to call a land your home that your country has forcefully occupied at the expense of the tragedies of thousands of locals.

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Eastern Europe

A New Phase of Escalation in the Russia-Ukraine War

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Photo: Grigoriy Sisoev, RIA Novosti

The month of September marked a new phase of escalation in what was being branded as a “grinding war of attrition”. Invading Russian forces, after having lost the momentum thanks to unwavering Ukrainian resistance supported by crucial military assistance from the West, kept narrowing down their military objectives, ultimately failing to achieve even those narrowed down aims virtually leading to a stalemate.

The tables started turning during the early part of September. Armed with cutting-edge Western weaponry and vital intelligence support, Ukrainian Army launched a two-pronged counteroffensive in the South towards Kherson and in the Northeast. While Ukrainians made some gains in the South, startling was their lightning recapture of the territory in the northeast, and even more startling was the rout of the Russian forces, which was such complete and absolute that Ukrainians recaptured more territory in less than a week compared to what Russians were able to take during past many months. The demoralized Russian troops hardly put up a fight and abandoned loads of arms and ammunition during the hastily carried out disordered retreat. Unsurprisingly, the Russian defense ministry sought to obfuscate the rout by cataloging it as a withdrawal aimed at regrouping. 

While the Ukrainian gains demonstrated the high morale and motivation of the Ukrainian troops, traits indispensable for winning wars — the Russian rout once again exposed the material and motivational shortcomings of what was for long regarded as one of the most powerful and capable military machines in the world: the Russian military. Though the Western military and intelligence support played a decisive role in the earlier stalemate and recently in the speedy Ukrainian gains, the heroism and unflinching commitment displayed by the Ukrainian nation and troops against all the odds marks the start of a new chapter in the national history of Ukraine — through which it is emerging as unified than ever.

Since it invaded Ukraine in February this year, Kremlin has been very careful so as not to transmit any signal implying weakness of its military or Putin’s control over the state of affairs within Russia. However, on September 21st, Moscow decreed the first mobilization, though partial, since World War II, which marked an implicit admission that Putin is failing to achieve his military objectives with the available military force. Though there has not been an official word on the exact numbers, media reports claimed that the numbers being mobilized are around 300,000 while other estimated, mostly based on the scale of the draft campaign in Russia reaching up to smaller towns and villages, placed the figure as high as 01 million. Irrespective of the exact numbers, the military draft marks a major escalation in the war and dims the hopes of a rapid Ukrainian triumph over the invading Russian force, which the Western observers started pinning after the lightning Ukrainian gains during the first half of the month.

Putin unquestionably has played a massive gamble. Western media has been reporting numerous incidents of people trying to leave Russia to circumvent being drafted; however, these reports can be highly exaggerated. Nevertheless, it must also be acknowledged that irrespective of how indoctrinated a country’s population is, being recruited forcibly for a seemingly wasted cause is unlikely to receive much traction in Russia. Even though at this time Putin does seem to be too worried about the decline in domestic approval, in the medium to long-term, the draft venture can turn the odds drastically against the Russian President, especially, if the death toll mounts and the campaigns designed to gaslight the masses do not have the desired impact.

As if the draft was not enough, on September 30th, Putin announced annexing four Russian-controlled regions of Ukraine — Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhia. The move marks the biggest annexation of territory since World War II and makes up an estimated 15 to 20 of Ukraine’s landmass. After declaring the inhabitants of the annexed region as “our citizens forever”, the Russian President pledged to defend the Russian land, which as per Russian law also includes the annexed region, employing all available strength and means — phraseology that was translated as another nuclear threat in a long series hurled by the Russian President since the start of the war.

As the lines are being written, the Ukrainian Army has captured the city of Lyman on Donetsk while the Russian defense ministry has acknowledged the takeover again calling it a withdrawal by Russian forces. The takeover of Lyman, however, demonstrates that does not matter how many lines one draws on the map, the actual outcome of the war would be determined on the battlefield, wherein Ukrainians, at least for the time being, have the momentum on their side.

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Latvia is inundated with NATO

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Image source: mk.gov.lv

Ukraine has become the excellent excuse for NATO expanding of Europe. The Alliance justified numerous military exercises and weapons supplies to the European countries by the need to response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine. NATO Spokesperson, Oana Lungescu said that NATO has to reinforce its presence in the eastern part of the Alliance.

The most active recipients of such support are the Baltic States. It is interesting to note, that they are so involved in the process of foreign weapons and troops deployment on their territories, that do not realize the danger of such political decisions. The U.S. and NATO do not only deploy military contingents and weapons but even start to decide and speak for them in the international arena.

Thus, The United States embassy in Latvia posted footage September 28 of the famous HIMARS rocket system being fired during exercises in Latvia, saying that two M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems were deployed in Latvia last week, one in Riga and one in Liepaja to display their mobility and flexibility. A U.S. HIMARS artillery system destroyed training targets in the Baltic Sea during exercise Namejs 2022, held at the Škede range in Latvia.

“It’s another opportunity to say once again how important Article 5 of NATO is, where an attack on one member of NATO is an attack on all members of NATO,” said John Carwile, United States Ambassador to Latvia.

Though the demonstration was intended to show NATO’s readiness to defend the Baltics, in reality it showed the Alliance’s intention to use such weapons against Russia. The matter is, Moscow’s response will leave Latvia no chance to survive. It would be totally ruined.

NATO decides for Latvia. The country is unhappy to become the main possible target because it was turned into host nation for NATO troops and weapons which openly threaten Russia. In other words the country was fully annexed by NATO troops, weapons, ideas and political decisions. Latvia’s security today does not depend on Riga any more, its territory is inundated with NATO weapons which are more dangerous for the country itself than for much more powerful Russia.

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Ukraine war-induced crisis affecting women and girls disproportionately

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A mother and daughter flee violence in Bucha, Kyiv Oblast, Ukraine. © UNDP/Oleksandr Ratush

A new UN report reveals how the Ukraine war and its global impacts on food, energy, and finance are affecting women and girls disproportionately, both inside the country and around the world.

The policy paper developed by gender agency UN Women and the Secretary-General’s Global Crisis Response Group, describes how the war has widened gender gaps in hunger, education and poverty, and has also increased gender-based violence.

Dire situation

For example, school-aged girls are now at a higher risk of being forced out of school and into marriage, as a way for desperate families simply to make ends meet.

Women have also reduced their own food intake, so that other family members can have more, amid food price hikes and shortages.

Meanwhile, energy prices have left families with no choice but to continue using low-tech fossil fuels, exposing women and girls to household air pollution, which kills 3.2 million people each year.

UN Women also estimates that around 265,000 Ukrainian women were pregnant when the war broke out and have had to endure physical and health challenges in the past months.

Rural food insecurity

The document notes that women-headed households in Ukraine were already more food insecure before the war, with 37.5 per cent of them experiencing moderate or severe levels of food insecurity, compared to 20.5 per cent of male-headed households.

Currently, rural women in Russian occupied territories are not able to do agricultural work due to high insecurity and lack of resources. However, they are having to accommodate internally displaced people, multiplying their unpaid care and domestic work responsibilities.

Sexual violence on the rise

The report warns of an “alarming” increase in gender-based violence, transactional sex for food and survival, sexual exploitation, and trafficking, not only in Ukraine but worldwide, amid worsening living conditions.

“Systemic, gendered crises require systemic, gendered solutions.  That means ensuring that women and girls, including from marginalized groups, are part of all the decision-making processes.

“That is simply the only way to be certain that their rights and needs are fully taken into account as we respond to the clear facts before us”, said Sima Bahous, UN Women Executive Director.

Recommendations

The analysis highlights that as women continue to bear different and additional burdens of war, they must be represented in all decision-making platforms on de-escalation, conflict prevention, mitigation and other processes in pursuit of peace and security for the people of Ukraine and beyond.

The report calls on the international community to promote the right to food by targeting the specific nutrition needs of women and girls and accelerating the transformation towards more equitable gender-responsive and sustainable food systems.

UN Women and the UN’s Global Crisis Response Group also recommend world leaders to ensure equal access to affordable and sustainable energy, as well as boost reporting on gender statistics and sex-disaggregated data.

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