President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has given an interview to editor-in-chief of Russian influential “Natsionalnaya oborona” magazine, well-known military expert Igor Korotchenko.
The interview was today published on the magazine’s website.
– Mr. President, it will soon be the anniversary of the well-known events that had colossal geopolitical consequences. I am talking about Azerbaijan’s military and political victory and the dramatic change in the entire situation in the region and, in general, in the world. But, nevertheless, we are going back to that day – 27 September 2020. How did that day begin? How was it reported to you that Armenia had begun military operations? In fact, how were the events unfolding on that day?
– Yes, the day started with that message. I was informed by the Minister of Defense that our positions on the line of contact and some settlements were subjected to artillery fire from Armenia. The decision was made to give an adequate response. Thus we entered the war, which, as it turned out, was inevitable. Events developed very fast. After the first day of hostilities, we liberated strategically important heights in Kalbajar district, in the Murovdag mountains in the direction of Aghdara, as well as six villages – four in Fuzuli and two in Jabrayil districts. We managed to break through the enemy’s first line of defense on the very first day, and after that we went only forward all 44 days.
– How was the plan for the counter-offensive operation, which was called the “Iron Fist”, developed? Why was this name adopted? And who took part in the preparation, under your leadership, of the concept and plan of the counter-offensive operation?
– A plan of hostilities in a country that was in a state of war, albeit a frozen one, had been developed for all occasions a long time ago, of course. Naturally, taking into account new realities, taking into account the new opportunities, including the technological capabilities of Azerbaijan, changes were occasionally introduced to this plan, and each time these changes were approved by me. This is natural. I also know that the Armenian side also had a plan of action in case of war. Essentially, they started implementing it on 27 September. Thus, the basis for our actions during the war was developed long before the outbreak of hostilities last year, of course, but during the course of military operations we made changes to it. This was due, first of all, to the fact that over the years it was impossible to avoid even a small leak of information. We assumed that the enemy was generally aware of our intended actions. The combat zone is quite limited in size, and any military specialist can determine where the main operations will take place, of course. Therefore, we made adjustments to the combat plan one might say on a daily basis. Every day I held meetings with the leadership of the Ministry of Defense, the State Border Service, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the State Security Service and the Foreign Intelligence Service. In these meetings, we summed up the results of the day, identified shortcomings, and also planned and approved actions for the next day. Therefore, there was such hard and daily work, so to speak. In many cases – the course hostilities is already known now – our actions and operations proved to be a major surprise for the enemy.
As for the name of the operation, it did not have any name at the beginning of hostilities, of course. I used the expression “Iron Fist” several times during my appeals to the Azerbaijani people, when I reported on the liberated cities and villages. I used this term several times and said that our “Iron Fist” would smash the enemy’s head if they do not voluntarily leave all the occupied territories. And, as it were, this term was received well in our society, and then I decided to formalize it, if I may say so, and give the operation this name. But again, this happened during the course of military operations.
– War is always a test of the strength of the entire system of the state, government, the resolve of the people. It is no secret that when a part of Azerbaijan’s territories was under occupation for many decades, Azerbaijan was preparing for this war. Could you describe the course of those political, economic and other transformations in Azerbaijan, which made it possible to build up the military potential that ultimately helped your country to win?
– Yes, you are absolutely right. Of course, we had to be very active in mobilizing our resources in a short time, even during the course of operations – both human and technical resources. I must say that during these 44 days we formed another army corps. We did that in a short time – the mobilization of the personnel of this corps was carried out in a matter of two days. They were also provided with all the necessary weapons and equipment. We also mobilized our technical capabilities, which allowed us the opportunity to conduct counter-offensive activities with greater effect. A lot was done to ensure the safety of the population who lived close to the contact zone. We had hundreds of thousands of people living in those areas, and they were under the daily shelling of Armenian artillery. Therefore, a partial evacuation of the population was also carried out. Although I must say that the bulk of the inhabitants of these villages and cities remained in their homes and said that they would not leave their lands anywhere. Naturally, we had been working for a long time to strengthen our potential, primarily to secure ensure economic independence. Because without that we would have been dependent on some financial investments or credit resources and, naturally, could not afford to modernize the armed forces. Therefore, practically from the first day of my tenure as President, we began work on securing economic independence. I think we achieved it in about six to seven years. By 2010, Azerbaijan was already fully capable of pursuing an independent economic policy, implementing reforms and investing heavily in infrastructure.
Of course, the modernization of the armed forces in terms of the purchase of modern models of military equipment proceeded at a rapid pace. This data has always been published, it is in the public domain, and everyone knew how much of what we were buying and from whom. And, of course, a lot of day-to-day work was carried out to increase the combat effectiveness of the armed forces. It is well known that no matter what technical capabilities a country may possess, it would be impossible to win a battle, let alone a war, without efficient armed forces, especially in such unfavorable geographic conditions. In essence, it was a combination of all these measures that led to the fact that we created a very powerful military component, and the second Karabakh war showed this. We had also demonstrated our capabilities, albeit in a very limited manner, during the hostilities in April 2016, when a part of the occupied territories was liberated and we gave the Armenian side the opportunity to make an important decision on de-occupation. Unfortunately, when we stopped, our actions were misinterpreted by the Armenian side, and they paid for that. We also demonstrated our capabilities to conduct bloodless operations, so to speak, during the operation on the border of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and Armenia in May 2018. Therefore, we knew our potential, we knew what we were capable of doing and, naturally, we soberly assessed, in contrast to the Armenian side, the capabilities of the enemy and tried to use the levers of influence in order to force Armenia to vacate the occupied territories of its own free will. And all my calls to international institutions to impose sanctions on Armenia had this goal. Because if this had happened, Armenia would have been forced to leave the occupied territories and the war would not have happened. Unfortunately, this did not happen. In the period leading up to the war, the Armenian leadership had switched to open provocations. The statements of the Armenian leadership that Karabakh is Armenia and full stop actually meant a withdrawal from the negotiating process. The statement of the Armenian minister of defense, which he made in America, that Armenia was preparing for a new war for new territories was an open threat and a demonstration of disregard for the fundamental norms of common sense and international law. Therefore, everything was leading to that. We can look at the chronology preceding the start of hostilities – July, when a provocation was perpetrated on the state border and our civilians and military personnel were killed, August, when a sabotage group was sent here but was neutralized in Goranboy district, and September, which everyone already knows about.
– During wars, people always pay attention to the leaders, to supreme commander-in-chiefs. Everyone saw how calm, unperturbed and, at the same time, confident you were. What were your firmness, confidence and calmness, I would say, based on? On the understanding the historical justice of this war? On the understanding that you, as the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, have one of the best armies in the region? Was this the basis of this calm conduct, a manifestation of confidence, which looked particularly decent against the background of all the body movements, I would say, of the Armenian side?
– It is difficult for me to give an immediate answer to this question. I think that some character traits probably play a role here. In principle, I am a balanced and composed person. I have repeatedly said in my interviews that any statesman, and even more so someone who occupies the position of the first person in a state, should leave his emotions outside of his daily duties. Each person has emotions and, of course, we demonstrate them, but over the long years of work, I have probably developed some qualities in myself that allow me to abstract myself from this.
During the hostilities, we never succumbed to provocations. Even when our cities were bombed, our children and women were killed, we did not respond to Armenia in the same way, we did not bomb their cities. Although it was possible to understand the emotions that overwhelmed us. We did not commit war crimes. On the very first day of hostilities, I gave strict instructions to our servicemen that those committing war crimes would be severely punished. So I think these are the factors I am talking about, plus, of course, the confidence that we are right characterize what you are talking about. Then, as you know, it is also very important for society and for the military command to see that the President is calm, balanced, confident and sure of victory – this inspires them and they pass this on to their subordinates. And this is passed on like an electric charge through the entire pyramid from the military command to the rank and file. And the same thing is passed on to society. In addition, from the very first days of hostilities, we tasted the joy of victory that we had been waiting for so long. I have already said that some settlements were liberated on the very first day. And our society was looking forward to new messages from me on Twitter or through my appeals to the people almost every day. And when this did not happen for several days, they were already thinking: what happened? Everyone had already grown accustomed to the fact that we are going forward, although many, of course, understood that war is an unpredictable thing. Taking into account the natural terrain, taking into account those fortified areas and the numerous lines of defense, it was very difficult to advance at that pace. Moreover, we planned all our operations in such a way as to carry them out with minimal losses. Therefore, it is also perceived with surprise that a country conducting a counter-offensive operation lost much less than the country that, as they said, was constantly retreating for tactical reasons. So I think that a palette of these factors gave confidence to me, to the army and to the people.
– Any war has a certain chronology. How would you describe the main stages of the operation, which ended in victory – starting from 27 September and ending with the capture of the strategically important and extremely symbolic city of particular importance for Azerbaijan – the city of Shusha?
– I think that the first day, i.e. the breakthrough of the enemy’s first line of defense, a line of defense that had been strengthened for almost 30 years is of such important stages, of course. Those visiting the liberated territories can see these ditches, some of them still have anti-tank hedgehogs and barbed wire, and minefields – everything was mined with hundreds of thousands of mines and they are still there. Therefore, it was also important. Because if we had not managed to break through the defense line on the very first day, it would have been more difficult for us – both from the point of view of the progress of hostilities and from the point of view of the morale of the armed forces. This played a very important role. I think that the second Karabakh war is very indicative for many precisely in terms of the constituent factors that led to success.
I would also note the importance of the Hadrut operation because they were not expecting us there. The Armenian side did not expect us to go this way, it was unexpected for them. And several days after the capture of Hadrut, the Armenian side announced that they still had Hadrut although there were already our people at all heights in Hadrut. The Armenian leadership had a somewhat amateurish understanding of whether the city was taken or not. Having taken all the dominant heights around Hadrut, the fate of this city was essentially decided. And it was only a matter of time when we will physically enter it – with minimal losses again. And only when we showed a soldier hoisting a flag on the local administration building and reporting to me on the capture of Hadrut did the Armenian side run out of further arguments and stop composing fables.
Prior to Hadrut, we liberated the city of Jabrayil in early October. This was also important from a symbolic point of view because this was the first city to be liberated. We had liberated villages and settlements before that. And of course, the liberation of the city of Fuzuli on 17 October was an important stage because it is a large city – the second largest in the Karabakh region after Aghdam in terms of the population. I would also note the capture of the settlements of Soltanli and Amirvarli, of course. Why? Because there was a very powerful fortified area there. For several days, we had to conduct a very intense military operation there to break the enemy’s resistance. In some directions the enemy gave up their weapons and ran away – they themselves admitted that they had 10,000 deserters. In some settlements they stood to the end. We must recognize this. I think that no-one should have any doubt that the Armenian side showed steadfastness in some operations. No-one should underestimate the enemy and belittle or take away from it. This is why the liberation of Soltanli and Amirvarli – this was the road to Zangilan – was very important from the point of view of the further course of events. As for the capture of the city of Zangilan, they were already running away from there because there were no resources to resist. In addition, even during the hostilities of the first period they made a mistake by trying to counterattack, which was completely silly from a military perspective. Instead of strengthening their defenses, they threw their forces into a counterattack and were completely destroyed. And, of course, the further operation – I would note the liberation of Gubadli and the access to the south of Lachin district, the liberation of the villages of Lachin district – Gulabird and others, which allowed us the opportunity to control the Lachin corridor. In fact, it was already under our control. And, of course, the crown of our victory is the Shusha operation. Anyone going to Shusha along Victory Road now can see where we accessed the city. It was a mobilization of incredible physical and moral effort. Moreover, this involved long days in the forest, in off-road conditions and with light weapons, moving forward tirelessly and then liberating Shusha – this is an unparalleled feat, this is heroism. Of course, the capture of Shusha broke the enemy’s back, and the enemy practically surrendered after that.
– Any modern war is of a hybrid nature, and the information component is no less important than the military one. We saw the Armenian propaganda machine at work, and we saw Azerbaijan’s response. Many Russian TV viewers remember the “60 minutes” program on “Russia” TV channel. In the evening, at prime time, tens of millions of Russians watched the broadcast in which you and Mr. Pashinyan spoke. Again, I don’t want to throw a stone at Mr. Pashinyan, but, you know, there was such a political and informational triumph. You outlined your position so clearly, calmly and with such explicit consistency. And then we saw your opponent who, to put it mildly, looked unconvincing. This is the informational component, a struggle for the minds, for the attitude of the international community. Here, of course, both Azerbaijan and you personally, Mr. President, probably showed examples of modern diplomacy, I would say. You did the things that will go down in the history of modern diplomacy. How did you manage to resist and move forward on this information front?
– This also happened spontaneously, so to speak. Because from the very first days of hostilities, there was an increased interest in the conflict in the world media – from Russian, Western and neighboring countries. And I gave consent to all the requests, because I thought it was necessary to communicate truth about the situation to the attention of the public of as many countries as possible: what is happening, what are the causes of the conflict, who is the occupier and who is the victim of the occupation. Because for decades, Armenian propaganda, which is quite effective in many countries, and diaspora organizations had been creating a false picture of the conflict. After all, even we you look at the outbreak of hostilities and the decisions that were made by some countries, they simply defy any logic. While it was Azerbaijani territory that was occupied, the US Congress passed the notorious amendment to the Freedom Support Act, Section No. 907, which deprived Azerbaijan of direct military assistance, direct US assistance, not only military. And we, the affected country, were essentially discriminated against. And the reason for this amendment, which was adopted, by the way, largely by subsequent leaders of the United States who held and are still holding high positions in the administration, the rationale behind it was that Azerbaijan was blocking Armenia. Just imagine – Zangilan, Gubadli, Lachin and Kalbajar districts are occupied. And this is described as a blockade of Armenia. In other words, I mean that diaspora organizations and also the media controlled by the Armenian lobby distorted the essence of the conflict. The fact that Armenia is an aggressor, an occupier which committed ethnic cleansing and an act of genocide in Khojaly, destroyed all historical and cultural buildings – all this was concealed. And we were portrayed as some kind of a monster, as a totalitarian and authoritarian country. The Washington Post, the New York Post, Figaro or other media of the US, France, Germany and many other countries referred to us only as the dictatorial regime of Aliyev. And thus, the power of the Armenian diaspora, which is much more powerful than the government of the Republic of Armenia, created such a background and gave the message that the Armenian population cannot feel safe in such a dictatorial country, although Azerbaijan is a multinational, multi-confessional country and everyone here lives in peace and harmony. And this is why, as it were, Nagorno-Karabakh should secede and Nagorno-Karabakh should have an independent status.
This is the plot around which all this was formed, and, of course, it was very difficult for us, with incomparably smaller media resources in comparison with the Armenian government around the world, to tell the truth. The conflict caught the attention of the media, and I used this opportunity to communicate the truth about what was happening. Everything I said is supported with documentary evidence. I did not say a single word that would not correspond to the historical truth or to what was happening on the battlefield every day. The Armenian side lied to its people, lied to the world community about what was happening during the war and what was happening before that. This is why, of course, I think that their theses were unconvincing in the first place and they have discredited themselves, whereas we were able to communicate the truth about what happened. By the way, I am grateful to “Russia” TV channel for organizing the broadcast in which we could express our position on the air in a live format. When there is such a level playing field, whether on the battlefield or in the information space, the Armenian side could not have a single chance, of course.
– The 44-day war is being studied in the general staffs of the leading countries of the world these days. First of all, many world-class military experts describe it as a war of drones. Of course, this is a bit of a visiting card, one might say, of the second Karabakh war, because Azerbaijan used all classes of drones on a large scale and efficiently. The war of the 21st century is also distinguished by the deployment of a huge number of aircraft that performed the functions of reconnaissance and destruction of identified targets. As Supreme Commander-in-Chief, could you dwell on this phenomenally successful experience in combat use? Because prior to this conflict, neither the United States of America nor even Israel had an example of such a high-tech, successful and effective war. How did you manage to do that, thanks to what?
– You are absolutely right. Before the second Karabakh war, unmanned aerial vehicles were not used on such a scale and with such efficiency. We started purchasing unmanned aerial vehicles a long time ago, more than 10 years, if my memory doesn’t fail me. These were Israeli-made weapons of destruction. We mastered and applied them during short-term hostilities in April 2016. This was a surprise for the Armenian side. But again, returning to what I said earlier, we did not aggravate that conflict because we had no intentions of a large-scale military operation, as it were. So it ended quickly. Subsequently, we began to acquire other vehicles, i.e. in April 2016 we used Harop. Then we started acquiring other Israeli unmanned vehicles, namely Sky Striker – this is no longer a secret, so there is no point in hiding it – and others such as Orbiter, as you said, reconnaissance and combat aerial vehicles. At that time, the Turkish military-industrial complex had not yet started the production of UAVs. As soon as it did, I think we were the first foreign buyers of “Bayraktars TB2”, which also proved to be very effective in terms of reconnaissance and in terms of delivering accurate strikes. But, of course, it was necessary to carry out the coordination and distribution of responsibilities, so to speak, between unmanned aerial vehicles.
As for “Bayraktars”, several of them were constantly in the air during the hostilities. Of course, sometimes the weather conditions created certain obstacles, but since the weather was clear on most of the days, they worked almost on a daily basis, perhaps with some short breaks. To coordinate and compare Israeli and Turkish UAVs required great skill, of course. The list of their targets was different because the destructive power of loitering ammunition is higher than that of “Rocketsan”. Therefore, strategic and large targets were hit by “Harop”, while armored vehicles and other targets were mainly hit by “Bayraktar TB2”. But, as you know, “Harop” is a single-use weapon, so we chose the targets that were worth hitting with “Harop” very carefully.
In addition, of course, as you correctly noted, “Bayraktars TB2” are also reconnaissance aircraft and therefore it was important to coordinate their actions with artillery fire systems, with aviation systems, and this, of course, required great professionalism and skill because it is very difficult. It is very difficult. I must say that we did not make any mistakes in this area during the hostilities. There were mistakes, there were shortcomings, we are aware of them and we corrected them in the course of the war. I am far from idealizing every step we take. We must tell the truth to our people, including the army leadership. I reprimanded them several times for miscalculations, but they were not fundamental. As for the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, there were no mistakes.
– Moreover, you mentioned at the beginning of the interview that one of the tasks you set during the counter-offensive operation was to minimize and exclude losses among the civilian population. High-precision drones provide precise destruction of military targets, plus several control systems. In this regard, such a successful experience confirms the thesis you mentioned earlier that the task was to wage a war on the basis of international law and existing conventions, and, of course, to hit specifically selected military targets.
– Yes, you are absolutely right. And that is exactly why the Armenian side has very few civilian casualties, about 30, according to our data. And they, in my opinion, do not dispute this data. And the majority of them – these were the civilians who were near artillery pieces – brought ammunition and fired from them themselves. You are absolutely right that the use of “Bayraktars” helped us a lot in conducting the hostilities, clearing the path for the penetration of our armed forces and occupying new positions, as well as minimizing losses. During the war, we destroyed and captured 366 tanks as spoils of war. Also, a huge number of armored vehicles and artillery pieces were destroyed. The very sight of “Bayraktars” instilled horror in the enemy and we took many of the captured tanks not even in battle. In other words, an Armenian tank moved to a position, but then its crew jumped out of it tanks and scattered, because they were afraid of being hit by a “Bayraktar”. We demonstrated this on the Internet practically every day. And this, of course, terrified the military. Therefore, many tanks, as I said, were simply abandoned by them.
– Another page, as it were, of the second Karabakh war, which also attracts close attention of leading military research centers around the world, was the actions of the special forces of Azerbaijan. We clearly saw it, in particular, during the operation to liberate the city of Shusha. It is known that these were the special forces that belonged not only to the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan, but also to other agencies and special services. How would you characterize these very combat operations of the special forces of Azerbaijan?
– Yes, you are absolutely right, the special forces of the Ministry of Defense played a crucial role in carrying out the most important operations to liberate the occupied territories, primarily the Shusha operation, but not only that. They selflessly participated in many operations and were ready to die, demonstrated both professionalism and self-sacrifice.
I have always paid special attention to special forces. Their activities, gear and daily training were under my regular control. I met with them many times and saw that we have actually created a very combat-ready military unit that can solve very complex issues. And if we go back to the course of hostilities, the terrain itself was very disadvantageous for us. We were essentially climbing mountains. The Armenian side had taken all key positions on the heights, created several lines of defense, the terrain itself is also a line of defense, it is also a fortification. Therefore, in general, we had to show miracles of professionalism, resolve, strength, and love of the Motherland. So I really appreciate their work.
But as you rightly noted, we have created several special forces in various agencies. The special forces of the border troops very actively and effectively participated in the hostilities and took part in the liberation of many settlements. I would also like to point to the special forces of the Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which also actively joined in the course of hostilities because initially we did not intend to use them, although they were also trained and equipped. Among other things, the Border Service was provided with military equipment, perhaps not quite characteristic of their direct line of activity, and so were the internal troops. In other words, I created these capable mobile military groups which, in addition to their direct duties, could also perform the functions of liberating territories.
Also, at a certain stage of the hostilities, we attracted the special forces of the Separate Combined Arms Unit of Nakhchivan, which was sent from Nakhchivan and participated in combat operations alongside other representatives of the special forces. The Marines also proved to be active and effective. So did the special operation forces of the State Security Service and the Foreign Intelligence Service. So we had seven special forces units, but, of course, the main function was performed by the special forces of the Ministry of Defense. A coordination of their actions was also very important because they carried out many operations together. And a coherence of their actions played a very important role in the success of the military operation. In some military exercises we conducted in previous years, we held joint military drills of the special forces of the Ministry of Defense, the Border Service, and the Internal Troops, as if testing the level of coordination between them. But it is one thing when this is done during exercises and completely another when it is done during the war. So they all showed heroism, were awarded high orders, medals, and we can be proud of them.
– During the second Karabakh war, Armenia repeatedly used operational-tactical missile systems against Azerbaijani cities, mainly at night. We remember those monstrous night shots, and everyone remembers your appeal when you said that Azerbaijan would fight fairly, “we will not respond with similar missile strikes to the attacks that were carried out by Armenia”. In this regard, does Azerbaijan plan to initiate the creation of a certain body, maybe an international military tribunal or some other perhaps to give an international legal assessment to these crimes against humanity. Because there is no military or political justification for such missile strikes and because civilian population was targeted. And we remember that the notorious Tonoyan doctrine envisaged this kind of action.
– You are absolutely right. During the war, everyone saw who is who, who is waging a fair war and who is meanly attacking sleeping cities. And the most interesting thing is that after the strikes on the residential quarter of Ganja using operational-tactical missiles, on sleeping people and children at night, the Armenian leadership stated that they had nothing to do with this. You know, this is some transcendental level of cynicism. Then who? Does it mean that we hit ourselves? They had been saying the same thing for many years, claiming that the Azerbaijanis had staged genocide in Khojaly themselves in order to blame the Armenians. In other words, this is cynicism which probably has no analogues in the world. Nevertheless, anyone who is more or less familiar with these types of missiles knows that they are assigned a task, a target is chosen and it hits the target. In other words, the goal was precisely to kill civilian population in the main avenue of the city of Ganja. This is an indicator of their policies and qualities, I would say. But it is the city of Tartar suffered the most. Because it was in the very immediate vicinity. It was fired upon by artillery on a daily basis. More than 16,000 shells landed on this small town. This is how they tried to avenge and take revenge on us for their defeat on the battlefield. This is the first thing. Secondly, they thought they would stop us. They thought that the people who suffered would demand from the government to stop the hostilities. This was their calculation. But they miscalculated, they underestimated us from the point of view of the combat capability of the army and from the point of view of the morale of the Azerbaijani people. The injured people who lost their loved ones, having barely got out of the rubble, were saying that we should only go forward. I received a huge number of requests and letters in which people said that we were ready to die, but we must return our lands. So that didn’t work either.
I must say that some Western circles also had this calculation, because during some interviews or conversations after the interviews, some Western correspondents told me with surprise that we attended the funeral of those killed by Armenian shelling but did not see any discontent there. On the contrary, everyone talks about you, everyone thanks you, everyone wants you to see it through. That was the picture of the situation.
As for the tribunal, it is well known that the International War Crimes Tribunal is a rather politicized institution based on double standards, on a selective approach, and the events of recent years have repeatedly proved this. Taking into account the lobbying potential of Armenia that exists in the West, taking into account Armenia’s special relations with many Western countries, it is difficult to expect that we will be able to achieve this – let me tell you quite frankly. And even if we do succeed, there is no guarantee that it will be a fair trial and not turn into another instrument of slandering Azerbaijan. But at the same time, of course, all the facts of war crimes during the war have been documented and we will certainly take serious legal action to bring war criminals to justice. Work is also under way – it is already nearing completion – to assess the damage that was caused during the years of occupation. We have attracted international companies, law firms that are conducting an assessment, which will then help us in international courts with legal claims. Because Armenia must be held accountable for crimes, for the plundering of our property, for the destruction of historical sites, the property of our citizens, for deforestation, for the pollution of our rivers and lakes, for the illegal use of our minerals in the occupied territories – all this is being counted. In other words, we are doing this work in a consistent manner. Legal action has already been prepared in relation to the foreign companies that illegally mined our minerals. This process is already being implemented now. So we will definitely use all possible tools to bring criminals to justice.
– The trilateral statement put an end to this war. Finding itself in a desperate situation, Armenia capitulated. We all remember the famous footage and the triumph of Azerbaijan. How was this decision made? What was left behind the scenes? Perhaps there are some details that can be shared today about this political backstage. Because everyone understood the situation perfectly well. For many such a triumph was a surprise. Everyone realized that Armenia was losing. But all of a sudden, Mr. Pashinyan signed an act of unconditional surrender, although he refused to do it live, unlike you and Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. What was the mechanism?
– You know, almost from the very first days of hostilities I repeatedly said in my interviews to journalists and speeches and appeals to the Azerbaijani people that we are ready to stop the war as soon as the Armenian prime minister announced the dates of withdrawal from the occupied territories. I also said this to many Western leaders, leaders of Western countries who called me during the hostilities and demanded or asked us to stop. I said: I am ready. I give my word and I always keep it, but give me a timetable. You want the war to stop, and so do I, but give me a timetable, talk to the Armenian leadership. I need dates of when the territories will be liberated. We don’t need war. And I said this publicly more than once during the hostilities. Also, of course, we were in regular contact with Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin at different stages of the hostilities. After the outbreak of hostilities, our first telephone conversation took place on 7 October, on his birthday. Traditionally, I wish him a happy birthday. And this was our first telephone contact. Already 10 days had passed since the outbreak of hostilities. We also discussed what we could do and how to stop the war. I had suggestions. Vladimir Vladimirovich has partially covered this in one of his interviews, so I don’t want to go into too much detail. But it is already known that these proposals were supported by the Russian side, but the Armenian side rejected them and, I think, made a tragic and fatal mistake. Because if they had accepted the plan I proposed, which was supported by Russia, then the defeat would not have been so humiliating for them and thousands of servicemen from both our side and the Armenian side would have survived. In other words, it is the Armenian leadership that is to blame for the death of these people, as it passed up on this historic opportunity at least twice during the hostilities. They counted on their Western friends to help them. They made open claims to Russia as to why Russia was not fighting for them, although the position of Russia was in full accordance with international law because military operations were being conducted on the territory of Azerbaijan and not in the CSTO area of responsibility, which they themselves should have known very well. Moreover, the appeal to the CSTO, the very CSTO which Pashinyan and his henchmen did their best to discredit by arresting the CSTO secretary general, was somewhat surprising. In general, it is a blatant fact. I don’t think anything like that has happened anywhere in the world – they were blocking the appointment of the current CSTO secretary general for one year, acting defiantly. This behavior did not correspond to the place, role and importance of Armenia on the world map.
So I return to what I said earlier. I have made these statements many times, and this position was known to Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. And after we had liberated the city of Shusha, Vladimir Vladimirovich called me and said that the Armenian side was ready to do what it was supposed to do. He asked: “Do you stick to your position?” I said: “Yes, I do not change my position. If they give us the dates for the withdrawal of their troops from the remaining occupied territories, we will stop.” This happened in the evening on 8 November. And on 9 November, we agreed to talk again because Vladimir Vladimirovich played a very active role, as if conveying my messages to Pashinyan and his messages to me. This lasted from the early morning of 9 November until late at night. And, of course, there were a lot of issues that needed to be agreed upon. All this was happening in an emergency mode. Imagine that we had to agree on a text between two warring countries in a matter of one day, and, of course, this text had to take into account the realities. And it did take these realities into account. I took into account the fact that Azerbaijan is a victorious country and Armenia is a country that capitulated. So this process of approvals went on until late at night and beyond. By Baku time it was already 10 November, which is why we call it the Statement of 10 November. In Moscow it was still 9 November. And finally the text was agreed. Of course, it was supposed to be signed, but Vladimir Vladimirovich asked me not to insist on Pashinyan signing it in our presence. The President of Russia is a very delicate person, very subtle, he treats everyone with great respect, so I said that I would not insist. I do not need any additional elements associated with humiliation, because this is not about humiliation of a person, but of a country, which we cannot afford. So I agreed that the two of us would sign it, but, of course, with the guarantee that Pashinyan would also sign it somewhere. It is still not known where he signed it. I have repeatedly asked this question in public, but have not received an answer. Maybe we will find out about this a year later, at least for history. This is about as much as I can say about that day.
– Everyone remembers that having won this victory, everyone remembers that footage, the First Lady and you visited the grave of your father Heydar Aliyev. He is remembered in Russia, among other things, as an outstanding statesman of the Soviet Union, as well as a person who saved Azerbaijan from actually disappearing from the political map of the world. In fact, his ascent to power gave Azerbaijan a powerful momentum for moving forward. We remember that footage: you, the First Lady, your eyes, your face. What were you thinking about at that moment? What did you recall? What emotions did you experience?
– I had rather mixed feelings, because it was very somehow … As they say, not enough time has passed for this to be digested. Already on 7 November, we were practically convinced that Shusha would be liberated. There was some military action in some places, but in the early hours of 8 November we already announced that Shusha was liberated, and I made this appeal in the morning. Therefore, everything was somewhat fresh, and the range of feelings was overwhelming. Of course, visiting the Alley of Martyrs and my father’s grave, I had a feeling of pride in the first place. I saluted him and reported on the fulfillment of a historic mission, the fulfillment of his will. And I felt a sense of pride and regret that he did not live to see that. But I also had some kind of inner confidence that, probably, his spirit was somewhere there and his soul was rejoicing too.
But there was still no complete victory then. I also thought about what was still ahead of us, because I could not imagine that the war would end the next day. We did not receive any signals from the Armenian side then. On the contrary, they used some weapons to bomb our military garrison, which had already liberated Shusha. It was on the morning of 8 November. So I thought that we still had to fight and that it was not the right time to celebrate. We must now do everything to liberate other territories. This is what I thought about, and on the evening of 8 November we were already planning the actions of the armed forces for 9 November. On 9 November, we carried out several other very successful operations. In essence, the liberation of Shusha broke the backbone of the Armenian army, as it were, and it was already completely demoralized. It was clear that by taking Shusha and being in the Lachin corridor, we had decided the fate of the remaining occupied territories. It was only a matter of time and, as they say, a pointless loss of human lives. The Armenian side probably understood this too and made such a decision, albeit with a delay. This is what I felt when I visited my father’s grave – a sense of accomplishment before him, before history and before the people.
– Perhaps the final stop was put to the war by the Victory parade. How was this idea implemented in general? What was the scenario? In any case, these are quite symbolic things, historic things, things that will be looked at. Please take us through that.
– Yes, I made this decision almost immediately after Armenia signed the act of surrender. And I immediately ordered the Minister of Defense to prepare for the parade, and it took us about a month to prepare. Because everyone was still involved in the military action. We had to prepare it well, realizing that this was an extraordinary parade. We had held military parades before too, but this, as you rightly said, was a Victory parade. Therefore, it had a symbolic meaning and historic significance for all future generations of the citizens of Azerbaijan.
I remember 2018, when we were celebrating the centenary of the establishment of the Azerbaijani army. Speaking at the parade, I said the banner that had been hoisted on the liberated territory of Lalatapa would be brought to the parade – from the battles of 2016. And then I said that the day would come when we would bring to the Victory Parade the banner that would be raised in the liberated territories. And that day has come. Of course, we demonstrated our military equipment there. Everyone who participated in the war marched in the square. We demonstrated a wall of license plates of captured military trucks and military vehicles of the Armenian army. Why did we do this? Because after the first Karabakh war, when our people ran away, they did not give us the time we gave them to leave. When our people ran away and abandoned their property, including personal cars, the Armenians made a wall of the license plates of their cars as a sign of humiliation of the Azerbaijani people, although in essence it was a wall testifying to their war crimes. Because it is a war crime to fight against the civilian population, all the more so demonstratively, and to show the loot. But they got away with it, and they showed it to tourists, they showed it to all sorts of politicians who illegally visited this region during the occupation. Therefore, we had to answer them. But we answered them with dignity. We have created this panel. It is now on display in the Park of Spoils of War and it is completely made of all abandoned and captured trucks.
– Military ones.
– Exactly, military ones. And the words “Karabakh is Azerbaijan, an exclamation mark” is written on them. This, I think, was the culmination of this parade.
– You have mentioned the Park of Spoils of War. This is also symbolic to a certain extent. Because the equipment displayed there is rather serious hardware. It shows that it wasn’t an easy war. It was a difficult war. It was a war of potentials, a war, I would say, of ideologies. On the one hand, it was a just war of liberation for one country and, on the other, it was a war for something that is someone else’s, something that belongs to someone else. The Park of Spoils of War – what does it symbolize and what was it created for?
– Well, first of all, it is a demonstration of our Victory. It is a demonstration of the Victory achieved in difficult battles. Because, let me say this again, we shouldn’t have and we never underestimated the enemy in any way. They were very well armed. And there, of course, we display only a small fraction of what was destroyed and captured. A complete list of all the trophies and destroyed military equipment is available in the media, I have voiced it. Therefore, first of all, it is a demonstration of our victory, it is a tribute to the victims, it is about the upbringing of the younger generation, a generation of people who will already live as representatives of a victorious nation. These are completely different emotional feelings, a completely different state. Perhaps those who have not experienced the hardships of the occupation, physical and mental anguish, a constant feeling of injustice, a constant feeling of oppression may find it difficult to understand the feelings experienced by the Azerbaijani people, who turned from a people who were expelled from their lands into a victorious nation in a matter of 44 days. This is a serious feeling.
Also, one of the symbols of this Park is that we should never forget this war. I have repeatedly said that yes, the war is over, we are ready to turn the page, we are even ready to start working on a peace treaty with Armenia, but we must never forget the period of occupation and our victims, the innocent victims of Khojaly, our dead killed civilians and military. And in order for this memory to be preserved forever, this Park is necessary. Also displayed there, albeit to a small extent, is the inhuman attitude of Armenian commanders towards their servicemen. We were finding people in abandoned trenches who were chained to those places. In the military trucks were destroyed there, we found their drivers who were tied to the steering wheel with chains so that they could not run away. It is just barbarism, and everyone should know this – both their patrons, those who propagated them throughout the years of occupation, and our own citizens. In other words, this has such a great symbolic meaning, and we chose a place, perhaps the best in the city. This place has long been empty, there used to be some kind of outbuildings, some kind of enterprises there. This place was not a boulevard before. When we built the boulevard in that direction, we cleared this place and just kept it in reserve. We thought it would come in handy one day. And it did come in handy. In the same place nearby – the project has already been approved – there will be a Museum of War, a Museum of Victory. We will probably begin the construction of the Museum of Victory in the near future.
– Azerbaijan is healing the wounds of war, and what the pace is absolutely amazing. I have visited Fuzuli and Aghdam, and the feeling is like after nuclear bombing. Foundations of buildings have been destroyed, there is literally not a single surviving building. There is only one mosque in Aghdam, but its minarets were used by the Armenian military to adjust the artillery fire. Everything else is destroyed. Fuzuli has been razed to the ground – dozens of cities and thousands of villages. Against this background, there is a new international airport in Fuzuli, there is a road to Fuzuli. Shusha is absolutely wonderful and new. Frankly speaking, the pace is amazing. These are the first examples. What is your timeline for the restoration and return of refugees and internally displaced persons – there are more than a million people who actually lost their homes. And along with this, how and on the basis of what principles do you see the prospects for peace and stability in the South Caucasus region?
– Yes, you are right. We are moving forward at a rapid pace, and the main goal is to return the former refugees and displaced persons as soon as possible. They have waited too long. I have already spoken about this, but I want to say again that our main obstacle, our main rival is time. Physically, we simply cannot do it all in one year or in a year and a half. Because, as you saw yourself, there is nothing there. Everywhere. I drove hundreds of kilometers from Baku to Fuzuli, Jabrayil, Zangilan, Gubadli and Lachin – everything is in ruins. Hundreds of kilometers in the other direction – from the direction of Kalbajar and Lachin – everything lies in ruins. And the scale of the destruction is such that it is simply amazing. It is a territory equal in size to that of Lebanon. Just imagine – we will have to build, equip an area equal to the territory of a country that is not the smallest in the world – Lebanon. This is just to give you an idea. And there is nothing there – no roads, no light, no gas, no water. Nothing. Absolutely nothing! Everything is destroyed, and it wasn’t destroyed during the first war, it was destroyed during the occupation. They took dismantled all buildings brick by brick with one goal – we should never go back. Another goal was that they used it, these stones to sell them. They even sold tombstones. They erased the inscriptions on the graves of Azerbaijanis and sold them in Armenia. They made tombstones from them for their own dead. The scale of such vandalism is simply off scale. If they also dug up the dead, pulled out their gold teeth, melted down and sold them. Who would ever think of that? This is who we were faced with and who we defeated. I said: we have not only restored territorial integrity, we have defeated a huge evil. I do hope that this evil never raises its head again. In any case, we will not allow this to its head.
Therefore, large-scale work is currently under way, primarily electrification. By the end of the year, we will fully provide all the liberated territories with energy. Hydroelectric power stations with a capacity of 20 megawatts have already been restored in Lachin, Kalbajar and Sugovushan. They are already providing energy. Several substations have already been built. Roads are being built in all directions. Victory Road to Shusha, then the second main highway Fuzuli-Shusha, which will be shorter. Roads to the Armenian border in Zangilan, Gubadli, the tunnel from Goygol to Kalbajar. I was there recently and inspected the progress of work. Plus the road from Fuzuli to Aghdam, from Fuzuli to Hadrut, to Jabrayil. In other words, there is a connection between these cities. We have allocated $1.3 billion this year for the program on the restoration of the liberated territories alone, of which, I would say, that about $400 million has not been allocated yet, because we comply with all the bidding, planning and design procedures. The city of Agdam has already started to be rebuilt, the master plan has been approved. Shusha city – the master plan has been approved. In Shusha, I recently laid a new housing complex for 25 houses. I think they will be built within a year, a maximum of one and a half years, and we will already be able to return people to Shusha. But an even bigger problem is minefields. The few maps of minefields the Armenian side gave us are about 25 percent accurate. But they won’t give us most of the maps of minefields, so this is a very time-consuming job. It cannot be done quickly. No matter how much money you have, it takes time. And, of course, there are such targeted projects as “smart village” in Zangilan district. Now we will carry out one pilot project in each other district so that we can already start returning people. I do not want to give a specific date, but I think – I actually don’t think but I know this for sure – that first people will move into Zangilan next year, perhaps even by the end of this year. As for other villages, it is also possible during the year. As for large cities, it will probably take some time, but we will plan it all in stages. There is a phased construction and settlement process. This is also very difficult work not only in terms of construction, but also in terms of logistics, provision of jobs, means of subsistence, land plots, equipment. This is a very large amount of work that we are doing ourselves and at our own expense. We did not apply for any loans, and if anyone wants to help, of course, we will be glad. If not, this is what we must do ourselves.
– What about the prospects for the situation in the South Caucasus?
– The prospects mainly depend on the position of the Armenian side. We have expressed our position. We are ready to begin the process of delimiting the state border. We are ready to start work on a peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Because it is necessary. The war is over, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has been consigned to forever. Therefore, it is necessary to arrange normal interaction. As you know, there is a trilateral working group at the level of deputy prime ministers of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. In other words, work on the future of the region is under way, albeit with difficulties. The Armenian side took a time-out for a month and a half, even for two and a half months. Work of the working group resumed only on 17 August. We are ready to move towards the normalization of relations, but so far there have been no positive signals from the Armenian side. Unfortunately, questions about the status of Nagorno-Karabakh are still being raised, which is completely unpromising and, I think, harmful and dangerous for Armenia in its current deplorable state. Because they should not forget the lessons of the second Karabakh war. If Armenia continues to have territorial claims against Azerbaijan, it will be difficult for Azerbaijan to refrain from territorial claims against Armenia. We have more grounds for this in terms of the historical belonging of Zangazur and the region of Lake Goycha. We have more historical prerequisites for territorial claims. But we are not putting them forward. Why does Armenia, having been defeated and having signed an act of surrender, consider itself entitled to speak about some kind of a status for Nagorno-Karabakh? A status for something that doesn’t exist. There is no Nagorno-Karabakh. There is Karabakh economic region, there is East Zangazur economic region. This is our territory, and it is up to us to determine what administrative units we can have. This is only up to us, no-one else, no other country, especially Armenia. Therefore, I think that this ongoing and hackneyed story about the status and about Nagorno-Karabakh poses a great threat to Armenia. It would be better for them not to anger and irritate us, but to agree as long as our proposal is still on the table. The same thing can happen again, as was the case with the war. We offered to stop on time. We offered them to leave of their own accord, they did not agree, but now they are reaping the fruits of that. The same can be true with this situation.
And I think that the initiatives that are being discussed in the countries of the region are also aimed at positively cooperation. You know that there is a 3+3 initiative, which is supported by Russia, Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan. Georgia has an objection, while Armenia has not expressed its position. Neither yes nor no. Again, there is no position. And if this is a positive position, then we can start working in this direction. And this, in turn, will serve not only to stabilize and minimize security risks in the region, but will also contribute to the fact that countries of the region will determine their interaction themselves, will decide how they will live themselves. The region will get rid of any external influence. Our position is like this. We are demonstrating it and not only demonstrating it but also working in this direction. With all our neighbors with the exception of Armenia, we have good relations – one might say close and friendly relations. We value them. Therefore, if Armenia joins this format, everyone will only benefit. We are committed to this. But perhaps they need some time. Perhaps the psychological shock they have experienced does not allow them to take important steps for the time being. Because their whole ideology was built on expansionism, on conquest, on fake history. They convinced themselves that they were right. This is their tragedy. They need to live in a new way now, to live in completely different realities. They need to understand that what used to be there will never be there again. They need to soberly assess the balance of powers, the geopolitical situation, the prospect of the balance of powers. They need to soberly assess that, not to go back to illusions and some mythological fables. But we are not seeing that as yet. We are not. But probably the time is not right. Hope, as they say, springs eternal. Let’s hope.
– I have noticed the care and high quality with which the Heydar Aliyev Foundation is restoring the masterpieces of world architecture, the historical heritage of Azerbaijan, restoring the cultural environment. This is very important and, of course, this work deserves a lot of respect. Because what has been destroyed is being restored – these are truly masterpieces of culture, masterpieces of architecture. And the high quality, in particular, the cultural heritage sites, I would even say, the world’s cultural and historical heritage in the city of Shusha, the presence of the First Lady there is also a very important humanitarian and, I would say, spiritual component of moving forward.
– Yes, you are absolutely right. For many years, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation has been working in this direction and in other areas – in healthcare, in education, in the preservation of Azerbaijani culture, in the preservation of traditional arts such as mugham, ashug art, etc. – everything the Azerbaijani people cannot live without and everything we must pass on to the younger generation, so that the younger generation grows up in the spirit of traditional values, in the spirit of traditions of respect for the elderly, all the good that the Azerbaijani people have carried over their centuries-old history, so that this is not lost, especially if we take into account the current trends of globalization or modern trends in the degradation of morality, which are actively implanted and are alien not only to the Azerbaijani people but also to the majority of the world’s people. And the basis here, of course, is family education, the basis is art, literature and culture. We want to preserve that, and we are trying to do that. The fact that we held the “Kharibulbul” music festival in Shusha, where representatives of all the peoples living in Azerbaijan performed on the first day, was my idea. I offered this to the Foundation and they organized it brilliantly, showing that this is a common victory. All the peoples inhabiting Azerbaijan died for this victory. We have recently restored the Days of Vagif poetry in Shusha, restored the mausoleum, which was destroyed. The restoration of historical sites is under way. This will be continued in all the liberated lands. Educational and cultural projects have already been agreed. In Shusha, most of the historical sites will be restored or are already being restored at the expense of sponsors and at the initiative of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. And, of course, we will be doing that at the expense of public investments. We will carry out this work. A Foundation for the Revival of Karabakh has also been established, and everyone can make donations into it. So this work will be very large-scale and creative, and it is very positively perceived in our society. I know how people rejoice seeing the changes. Life is reborn in the liberated lands.
– In conclusion of our interview, what would you like to say to the Russian audience, especially since you and Russian President Vladimir Putin have very respectful, kind and sincere relations, which is important in interstate relations. The large Russian community in Azerbaijan feels like nowhere else in any other post-Soviet country perhaps. You are a well-known politician, and everyone in Russia remembers your brilliant speeches and has great respect for you. What words would you like to say to the Russian audience?
– Thank you, thank you for the kind words. You are absolutely right, together with President Putin, we are setting the tone and vector for the development of our relations, which in recent years have developed and are developing very dynamically and have reached a completely new qualitative level. We are now working to raise this level even higher. Although we seem to have reached a high milestone, active work is currently under way to raise our relations to a higher level in terms of quality, form and versatility of our relations. And we have a very trusting relationship with the President of Russia. It is very important between politicians, especially between politicians from neighboring countries, to trust each other. And this is exactly what there is between us. And, of course, there is a sense of deep mutual respect. Our goals are completely the same. I would like to take this opportunity to address the readers in Russia so that they know more about Azerbaijan and understand the realities of the country, the essence and nature of our interstate relations more correctly. Our relations are based on friendship, good neighborliness, mutual interests, mutual support. I have received, and I still do, a lot of letters and telegrams from Russia, from the people of Russia – both during and after the war. Those were letters of support, congratulations. Writing to me were former natives of Baku who left for Russia for whatever reason and those who have never been here. During the war, they became even more imbued with a positive attitude towards our country.
As for the further development of bilateral relations, we have everything defined. There are six roadmaps we are working on right now: economic, transport, energy, humanitarian. We are now working hard on issues related to the exchange of young people. We planned to hold the Russian-Azerbaijani Youth Forum so as not to pass the baton, but the pandemic hampered us a little. Because, you know, time flies, new generations have grown up who already do not know each other like we do. Therefore, it is important that the young generation of citizens of Azerbaijan and Russia grow up in friendship and harmony. Because it is of great value for us and for Russia, because we are neighboring states. Relationships between neighbors do not always develop the same way as between us. Here, of course, I must say without false modesty that, first of all, this is the due to the presidents of the two countries, but it is also due to all other team members and the public. And there is such an indicator: before the pandemic last year, about a million Russians came to Azerbaijan every year. This indicator, which almost doubled in a short time, is an indicator of comfort. Because people go where they feel comfortable, where they feel at home. The attitude towards Russia in Azerbaijan has always been positive and continues to remain so.
We have now entered a new stage, I would say, because the interaction is closer, contacts are more active taking into account the presence of Russian peacekeepers in the Karabakh region. Naturally, this topic is also constantly on the agenda. I must say that almost a year has passed and is proceeding in a regular mode, without any excesses. On the contrary, there is complete mutual understanding and interaction. We highly appreciate the activities of Russian peacekeepers to stabilize the situation. This is an important factor in terms of stability. And, of course, we hope that there will be a process of reconciliation between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. We are also neighbors and will not leave each other. Therefore, these realities must be perceived correctly. The role of Russia here, of course, is very important, and we see that this role is very positive. You noted that there is a large Russian community here. They are worthy citizens of our country, they play a very important role in strengthening bilateral ties. There are more than 340 schools here with teaching conducted in Russian, there are Russian-language departments in state higher educational institutions, there are tens of thousands of students and schoolchildren studying in Russian. I think this is also an important factor in our interstate relations. I would like to take this opportunity to invite your audience to Azerbaijan – the pandemic is already fading – to come to Karabakh, to those beautiful and picturesque places, to get to know Azerbaijan even better and to strengthen our friendship. And, of course, I wish the Russian people success in all their endeavors.
– Thank you. I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the fact that you, despite your busy schedule, found time for such a detailed, exclusive, large and, I would say, systemic interview, where many things were spoken about for the first time and are completely new. For my part, on behalf of myself and the editorial board of our magazine and, I think, on behalf of tens of millions of Russian citizens, let me express wishes for prosperity and development to Azerbaijan. As for you personally … You know, the modern world is arranged in such a way that this military victory has objectively put Azerbaijan on a par with countries that many are looking at. This is a factor of military victory, especially in a situation when for many it was not obvious how it would all end. It was clear and obvious for you, but for many it was not quite obvious that Azerbaijan had become one of the countries of the world people are looking at, people are following today. Of course, you are the leader of Azerbaijan, a politician, I would say, a top-level star on the political horizon. I would like to wish you and your family good health and the relations between Russia and Azerbaijan to strengthen and develop further. We also count on such an important factor that military-technical cooperation between our countries will be continued. We know that more than $5 billion of modern Russian weapons have been purchased, which also served as the basis for the military potential. We look forward to this direction being continued too. Thank you very much.
– Thank you. Thank you very much for your kind words. I would also like to echo your words about such a friendly nature of our relations. We are doing good work in all areas, including the area of military-technical cooperation. Of course, now we are looking at new developments, technical groups are studying new possibilities, we have already submitted some new applications, so cooperation in this direction will also be developing. Once again, I want to say that we are confident that cooperation between our countries will continue to grow in the future. Thank you.
– Thank you.