Artsakh officials began the daunting task of safeguarding Armenian cultural, religious and historic monuments in Berdzor (Lachin) by removing those that are possible and housing them in other facilities for safe keeping.
Residents of the Aghavno and Sus villages as well as other parts of Artsakh’s Berdzor (Lachin) region have been given until August 25 to evacuate those areas as they will be surrendered to Azerbaijan, and monitored by the Russian peacekeeping contingent.
Artsakh officials fear that if cultural monuments are not removed ahead of the deadline, they will be destroyed or appropriated by the occupying Azerbaijani forces.
Artsakh deputy culture minister Lernik Hovhannisyan told Artsakh Public Television that the Khachkar (Cross Stone), which stands as a memorial to the Armenian Genocide, at the Holy Ascension Church in Berdzor has been removed.
“Back in February 2021, in the courtyard of Tsakhkavank Church in the Tsakuri village of the Hadrut region, the President of Azerbaijan clearly stated that the monuments that have been erected for thirty years are to be destroyed. He also said that all Armenian monuments must be written off,” explained Hovhannisyan.
Most of the relics removed from Berdzor, Aghavno and Sus will placed at other churches. The martyrs’ memorials on the grounds of the Church of Holy Martyrs in Aghavno will be moved to the “Yerablur” military pantheon in Yerevan.
The rush to safeguard these monuments comes a week after Azerbaijani forces launched a massive offensive against Artsakh Defense Army position in Berdzor, as a result of which two Artsakh soldiers were killed and 19 others were wounded.
It was clear that the latest aggression was another effort by Azerbaijan to pressure Armenians of Artsakh to abandon their homes, citing the provisions of the November 9, 2020 agreement, which stipulates that a new road linking Armenia with Artsakh and bypassing the existing Lachin corridor must be constructed by 2023. While Armenian official said that construction of the five-kilometer road had begun, Azerbaijan used military force to advance its agenda.
Evidently, Stepanakert and Yerevan caved in and ordered the residents of Berdzor to evacuate their homes by August 25.
Armenia’s authorities have signaled that the construction of the road will conclude in April. However, Azerbaijan, using Turkish contractors, has completed a 30-kilometer highway that will connect to the road being constructed by Armenia.