“What Political Consequences will Lapshin’s Extradition to Baku Have?”
Alexander Lapshin, a citizen of Russia and Israel, who was arrested in Minsk, Belarus on December 15, 2016, for visiting Nagorno-Karabakh Republic was extradited to Azerbaijan on February 8 due to the request of Azerbaijan.

He was charged based on Article 218.2 (appeals against the state) and 318.2 (illegal crossing of the state border of Azerbaijan) of Azerbaijan's Criminal Code.

A discussion was held on the topic of “What Political Consequences will Lapshin’s Extradition to Baku Have?” at Media Center, on February 9. The speakers of the discussion were Tevan Poghosyan, MP, Tatul Hakobyan, Journalist and Analyst of Civilitas Foundation and Hayk Khanumyan, MP of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, who presented their views on what possible consequences may "Lapshin case" have for Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh Republic and what lessons should be learned.

All speakers agreed that though Lapshin is not RA citizen but the incident affects the interests of Armenia and NKR. Therefore, Armenia should not adopt the role of an observer, but should play an active role in order to mitigate possible negative political consequences and prevent future cases.

“Any phenomenon, which refers and contains the Nagorno Karabakh Republic in its context, should be of our interest,” Tevan Poghosyan said. He drew parallels between the extradition cases of Lapshin and Ramil Safarov (Azerbaijani army officer who was serving the sentence in Hungary for killing an Armenian officer Gurgen Margaryan with an ax).

“Lessons should be learned not now but they should have been learned after Safarov’s case, and this scenario should have been expected, had to be prepared, he stressed, adding that this is the result of state’s inefficient work,” he said.

In response to the question what impact Lapshin’s extradition can have on the Karabakh conflict settlement, journalist Tatul Hakobyan mentioned that there would be no effect, adding that even though we failed in Lapshin’s case but he did not consider it a big defeat. 

The reporter considered the “Lapshin case” as the following litmus test, which led to the bankruptcy of Armenia's foreign and the integration policies.

“We are in obscure associations, where our allies work against us, I am much more concerned that at least two of the CSTO member states, Russia and Belarus, sell arms to Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan supports Azerbaijan in the CSTO and EAEU ...,” the journalist said.   

Hayk Khanumyan, blaming the RA high officials for the failure of “Lapshin case”, drew attention to the fact that Azerbaijan had always made efforts to harm Artsakh's economy, and "Lapshin case" can be considered in this context as well.

"One thing is clear; Azerbaijan is clearly working to undermine the most important branches of Artsakh's economy, industries that provide a portion of profits. The main focus of the April escalation in 2016 were the regions where the mining and hydroelectric energy production are developed, before that they were trying to disrupt agricultural activities. And now the tourism business is targeted, and "Lapshin case" is in this context. Up to 15 thousand tourists visit Artsakh annually, this number declined after the August events in 2014, another decline was recorded after April War in 2016,” Khanumyan said.

Summing up the discussion, the speakers emphasized that building and strengthening democracy in the state can become a powerful resource to face such cases as "Lapshin case" and in general challenges in foreign policy. It will enable to prevent dangers with the support of the international community, especially when they come from oppressive regimes like Belarus and Azerbaijan.

“I always thought that Armenia must be cleaned from the inside, starting the process from the inside. As long as the inside of Armenia is not clean, as long as this is our government, no changes will occur. The same can be said about the NKR,” Tatul Hakobyan said.  

To watch the video, follow the link.  

Lilit Arakelyan, editor/events coordinator at “Media Center”

To contact the author please send an email to lilitarakelyan@pjc.am.

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