There were not only women and children in those vehicles, but also men of conscription and combat-ready age. And most importantly, contrary to the established procedure, the passage of another group of “civilians” with or without quotation marks was not coordinated with the Azerbaijani side. The situation had to be clarified on the spot, which took time. The road from Gorus to the city of Shusha alone takes about two hours. Add to this several hours of talks with the environmental activists, the inevitable stress, fatigue: no wonder three passengers felt unwell.
From that point on, things went off the script. Instead of conducting a “rigorous check”, throwing the bus passengers face down on the ground and playing it tough in general, the “evil Azerbaijanis” arranged for medical assistance on the spot. And then an Azerbaijani ambulance took the patients to one of the clinics in Khankendi.
And here is where one cannot help but ask: what was that?
It is said that in 1997 Ayman al-Zawahiri, the future successor of bin Laden and leader of al-Qaeda, was detained in Dagestan. He was trying to enter Azerbaijan without an Azerbaijani visa, and claimed in earnest that he had not known, six years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, that a Russian visa was not enough to enter Azerbaijan. Whether he was to be believed is a big question. But the Russian peacekeepers, who drive several of their vehicles through the rally every day, could not have been unaware of the approval procedure at all. And if the buses where able-bodied men were slightly diluted with women and children drove up to the site of the rally without coordination, this alone speaks of a planned provocation, in which the organizers and conductors were those very peacekeepers and “ordinary Armenians” were given the part of extras. Or rather, they were the “whipping boys”. How “common and ordinary” were the passengers in the buses remains to be seen. It is possible that there will be some interesting revelations there, too.
Perhaps, the organizers of the provocation thought they were playing a “win-win game”. If the vehicles are turned back, they can loudly scream about the “blockade”, “separated families”, etc. If the Azerbaijanis enter the buses and start checking the passengers, children start crying on cue, women start screaming and fainting, which again gives them grounds to squeal about the “blockade”, “terror against civilians”, etc. It is quite telling that along with “ordinary Armenians”, “separated families” etc., the buses also carried “attached” journalists and when the wait began at the site of the civil campaign, two ladies crawled out of a bus and started to give interviews to the accompanying journalists in a tight circle.
But the provocateurs failed to impose their script on the Azerbaijani side. Both government officials and participants of the rally showed restraint and composure and did not allow themselves to be drawn into a dirty game. As a result, the Armenian propaganda has to “make mountains out of molehills” without having even a molehill. The “ombudsman” of the separatists, Gegham Stepanyan, tells heartwarming stories: oh, “Azerbaijanis burst into the bus,” oh, “several passengers fainted”… The Armenian propaganda even tried to deny the fact of delivering patients to the hospital by Azerbaijani “ambulance”: they say that passengers were taken to the hospital by peacekeepers in their “ambulance”. But they failed to take into account the fact that by that time the photos of the Azerbaijani ambulance with the state license plate number and geo-positioning had already been posted online. So, the Armenian fakes, by the law of boomerang, hit those who “launched” them.
Obviously, this story feels like a déjà vu.
In January 2023, a bus with 19 Armenian teenagers who had gone to Yerevan for the Junior Eurovision Song Contest and got stuck in Armenia was driven from Gorus to Khankendi through the rally site: the Armenian side was unwilling to coordinate their passage with the Azerbaijani side. Eventually, they had to make concessions, but another fake was made out of the trip. As Gegham Stepanyan cried then, “Azerbaijanis in masks stormed into the bus”, one boy fainted (!). A few hours later a girl fainted. Meanwhile, the video footage that appeared on the Internet showed no harsh checks, just a quick inspection of the interior from the door, and no fainting whatsoever. One boy was offered a juice box, which he declined. And that was it.
Of course, we can refrain from ironic parallels between the “horror stories” about fainting spells during bus checks and Anna Hakobyan’s confession about 11,000 deserters in the Armenian army, and not ask questions about the “fighting spirit”, “lions with hearts of steel”, etc. But one cannot help noticing that the new provocation by the Russian peacekeepers and Armenian nationalists was arranged precisely at a time when the Armenian side had hopelessly lost the “road war”. Azerbaijan not only controls the Lachin road. The Azerbaijani Armed Forces also control unpaved roads such as the Khankendi-Khalfali-Turshsu road. They cannot smuggle weapons, mines and conscripts along these roads now. The only thing left for them to do is to spin the myth about the “blockade” and “humanitarian catastrophe”, from time to time feeding fresh sob stories and video footage to the audience. But this time, thanks to the professionalism and restraint of the Azerbaijani side, the provocative buffoonery backfired on its organizers, exposing them as cheap fake news mongers.
And we can assure you that is not the first or last time this has happened.