Tension between Russia and Azerbaijan: Armenians to Be Blamed?

Recently a series of events caused tension between the foreign affairs agencies of Russia and Azerbaijan. On January 11, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, commenting on the cases of deportation of Russian citizens of Armenian origin from Azerbaijan, noted that it is a gross violation of the rights of those persons.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, last year at least 16 cases of rejecting the visit to Azerbaijan for ethnic reasons have been recorded (they were mainly Armenians). At the same time, Russian citizens have been kept in the airport for hours, and then were deported forcibly, but no official reason has been mentioned. “The Russian side has received assurances from the Azerbaijani authorities that the situation will be rectified. We count on this,” Zakharova emphasized. The next day media reported that nine Russian citizens were expelled from Azerbaijan for organizing illegal religious meetings. Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Leyla Abdulayeva, described Zakharova’s statement as an “anti-Azerbaijani provocation”, but at the same time stressed that it won’t have a negative impact on relations between Azerbaijan and Russia. “The representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry said that “the Azerbaijani side promised that this situation would be corrected.” We strongly refute this. Azerbaijani-Russian relations are based on equality, and the expression “correct the situation” contradicts the essence of equal bilateral relations”, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said, adding that it was not the first time that the official representative of Russia’s MFA made statements contradicting the spirit of bilateral strategic relations.

The topic received its continuation in the Russian media. RIA Novosti reported that according to a diplomatic source in Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry has sent a note to the Azerbaijani Embassy in Moscow over instances of discrimination against Russian citizens based on their ethnicity. Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Russia Polad Bulbuloglu even had to come up with explanations saying that in diplomatic practice it is not customary to leak information transmitted in the form of a memorandum to the media, as the document is not an official diplomatic correspondence. He also noted that the Russian side has repeatedly raised this issue at various levels.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov added even more fuel to the fire, commenting on the situation over Russian citizen of Armenian origin Marat Ueldanov-Galustyan, who was convicted in Azerbaijan.  ”I hope that we will be able through the dialogue, through a decision based on legal norms, to reach the result that suits everyone, we will be able to return this citizen,” he said. It should be noted that Marat Ueldanov-Galustyan was detained in July 2016 in Azerbaijan on charges of “illegal acquisition, production, storage and distribution of a large-scale narcotic drugs.”

What was the reason of the tension between the two foreign ministries? After all, it is not the first time that the visit of Russian citizens of Armenian origin to Azerbaijan causes problems, besides the case referring to Ueldanov lasts for 2.5 years.  It is possible that Azerbaijan, taking advantage of the current strained relations between the authorities of Armenia and Russia, tries to return the saboteur Dilgam Asgarov. On January 16, Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman Leyla Abdullayeva commenting on the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s response to a question about the citizen of Russia of Armenian origin detained in Azerbaijan, in her turn, asked Russian Foreign Ministry to increase efforts for returning its citizen Dilgam Asgarov, arrested in Karabakh. 

Putting the murderer Dilgam Asgarov and the case of Ueldanov on the same plain, Azerbaijan, in fact, admits that the case against the citizen of Russia Ueldanov was fabricated in response to the arrest of Asgarov. And the Russian side is unlikely to close its eyes on this…