Sev Lich or Black Lake – Azerbaijan or Armenia?

Armenia and Azerbaijan have never delimited and demarked their common border after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Thus it is not surprising that in some parts the border is unclear or in dispute. On such case, which currently leads to tensions between the two, is Lake Sev Lich region. Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of having illegally advance into Armenian territory and encroaching its sovereignity:

Today Azerbaijan’s armed forces crossed the state border of the Republic of Armenia and advanced as far as 3.5 kilometers in that section. In fact, they are trying to surround and siege the Lake.

Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia

It’s unclear where the Azerbaijani troops are exactly at this point but if one wants to know what the maps say, lets first look at Google:

We see that most of the lake(s) are on Armenian territory and some of the Northern part is in Azerbaijan.
Of course, Google maps are nice, but hardly authoritative on what the borders are.
So lets look at another source. One would think that old Soviet Maps would give us a clue what the borders were between the Armenian and Azerbaijanian SSR, and indeed we can find such maps online. Here’s the relevant one from the Russian General Staff (1975 updated 1985):

From what I am hearing, Azerbaijan seems to want to claim the whole area of the Lake, with which the Armenian side is obviously in disagreement.

We’ll see how this develops. Russia has offered to help in border delimitation and demarcation if both sides request it, but I am currently unaware whether both sides have done so or not.
In any case, this will go on for a while and from the rhetorics from Armenia, this might turn a hot conflict at any moment.

Russia said to move troops to border with Ukraine

After Ukraine has moved troops and equipment to Donbass region and to the border with Crimea, Russia has (allegedly) started to move its own troops and equipment to all areas bordering Ukraine. It is said that Moscow intends to demonstrate that it will not stand idly by when Kiev regime forces attack Donbass.
One should remember what Putin said during a press conference in 2018 when asked:

“Kiev can launch an offensive of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the Donbas during the World Cup in Russia, what will happen then?!”
Putin replied: “Let them just try, then Ukraine will lose its statehood!

I post here a few sources with videos and images:

Please note, none of these videos images have been geo-located and dated, so I cannot confirm that they are accurate. However, in my opinion they probably are credibly depicting the situation.

Crimea Returns to Russia, March 16, 2014

Seven years ago, the citizens of Crimea decided in a referendum to rejoin Russia. Turonout was 83,1%, and 87.77% voted Yes to joining Russia.
There’s a nice document on the website of the Republic of Crimea looking into the legal aspects and the legality of this referendum.
Some of the key points:

  • Coup d’état on February 23, 2014 removed the constitutional order of Ukraine and the constitution was set aside;
  • Crimea continued to be governed by a locally elected legal government;
  • Crimea had a special legal status, and remained in Ukraine after 1991 only due to a legal compromise, which required a legal, democratically elected government in Kiew. The coup d’état destroyed that;
  • There were threats of violence and ethnic cleansing against the population of Crimea (65% Russian and 13% Crimean Tatars);
  • Action of Crimean government was founded in law and thus legal;
  • Sevastopol was not part of Crimea since Oct. 29, 1948 and was a legal subject of the Russian SFSR;
  • Transfer of Crimea from Russian SFSR to Ukraine in 1954 was illegal under the then constitutions of the USSR, Russian SFSR and Ukraine;
  • Sevastopol’s transfer to Crimea and Ukraine was never based on any legally normative act of the USSR or Russian SFSR and was an unilateral act of Ukraine;
  • The referendum was conducted in a democratic and transparent way;

Document in full (original source):

Boring, girls!

There’s something familiar about this “Putin’s Palace” story, for two reasons. For one thing, this piece of real-estate has been in the news since 2010, when it was buing built and rumours that it was somehow linked to Putin began to appear about “Putin’s Palace”. The rumours were kicked off by Sergei Kolesnikov who decided it was more lucrative to market himself as a whistleblower. The story was described by Reuters in 2014. In short, it seemed to have been owned by a company named Rirus then owned by Nikolai Shamalov and was later sold to Alexander Ponomarenko according to the Reuters article.

The Reuter’s article wasn’t even news. In 2012, BBC Newsnight already ran with this story, with a bit more prose and some images. They re-hashed it in 2016 in an article called “Russia RBC shake-up seen as new Putin raid on media”.
The story went quiet until recently when Navalny warmed it up again in a video that shows mostly speculations as what the interior might look like based on 3D renderings based on building blueprints that may or may not be accurate. The whole video is long an boring, and contains no real (primary) evidence on what the building actually looks like on the inside and about belonging to Putin.

The other reason that this looks familiar is because of the familiar pattern that is visible here: Create outrage, support anti-regime protests. The same modus operandi was visible in 2013/2014 when similar stories were run by Western media as part of their regime change campaing in Ukraine. Back then it was “Yanukovych’s Palace” – which actually existed and belonged to him, but was used as a proof of his corruption. Allegedly, there was a “golden toilet” in there, and you could even find pictures purporting to show it on the Internet, but when the estate was raided and made accessible to the public, the toilet failed to materialize.

So it seems West is trying to use the same tricks again to create strife – this time in Russia and cook up an old story, which Putin commented with “Скучно, девочки!” (Boring, girls!).

Russian Peacekeepers Extend their Area of Responsibility after Incident

The MoD of Russia has published an new map of their area of responsibility on December 13, 2020.
It shows an extension in the South of Nagorno Karabakh. I present here the maps of Dec. 11 and Dec. 13, so you can see the change:

This is in response to incidents on Saturday Dec. 12 in the area there, when Azeris and Armenians exchanged fire and Azeris moved into the villages Khin Talgar and Khzaberd. The incident is said to have caused several deaths among Azeri and Armenian soldiers, also rumour has it that Turkish special forces also took part in the incident. Prime minister Pashinyan of Armenia made this claim, but it is unconfirmed.
The situation is now calm again and both villages have passed under control of Russian peacekeepers.

UAF Shells Village in DPR

⭐️🕙⭐️ Summary of the official representative of the People’s Militia of Donetsk People’s Republic

💥Violations of the ceasefire by the Ukrainian Armed Forces over the past day

♦ ️Over the past 24 hours, the armed formations of Ukraine have violated the Set of Additional Measures to Control Compliance with the Armistice FOUR times.
➖All violations were recorded in the Mariupol direction, where the militants of the Marine Corps battalion of the 36th brigade of the VFU, in violation of the SECOND clause of additional measures, from positions in the area of ​​the settlement of the item. VODYANOE TWICE opened fire from RPGs, AGS and grenade launchers in the area of ​​the settlement. LENINSKY, firing a total of SEVEN grenades.
❗️ In addition, in the Ukrainian positions in the area of ​​the settlement VODYANOE, at 14.27 and 14.51 FOUR explosions were recorded during the installation of additional minefields, which were carried out in order to exclude attempts to transfer subordinate military personnel to the side of the Republic.

Original Source in Russian:

You can find an interactive version of the map at

Chapter 8 of the Constitution of the USSR of 1991

If you want a better understanding of what’s going on in former Soviet Republics like Ukraine or Belarus, you may want to have a look at the Constitution as it was in 1991.

The full length original of the constitution in Russian is here. The following is an excerpt of Chapter 8, which is the most pertinent one regarding the territory of the USSR:

Which translates in English as (according to Google, with some corrections by me marked by strikethrough of original and bold replacement):

Chapter 8. USSR – Union State

Article 70. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is a single union multinational state formed on the basis of the principle of socialist federalism, as a result of the free self-determination of nations and the voluntary unification of equal Soviet Socialist Republics.

The USSR personifies embodies the state unity of the Soviet people, rallies all nations and nationalities for the purpose of building communism together.

Article 71. In the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics the following are united:

Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic,
Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic,
Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic,
Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic,
Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic
Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic,
Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic,
Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic,
Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic,
Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic,
Kyrgyz Soviet Socialist Republic,
Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic,
Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic,
Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic,
Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic.

Article 72. Each union republic retains the right of free secession from the USSR.

Article 73. Subject to the jurisdiction of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics represented by its highest bodies of state power and administration shall be subject to:

1) the acceptance of new republics into the USSR; approval of the formation of new autonomous republics and autonomous regions within the union republics;

2) determination of the state border of the USSR and approval of changes in the borders between the union republics;

3) establishment of the general principles of organization and activity of republican and local bodies of state power and administration;

4) ensuring the unity of legislative regulation throughout the territory of the USSR, establishing the foundations of the legislation of the USSR and the union republics;

5) pursuing a unified social and economic policy, managing the country’s economy; determination of the main directions of scientific and technological progress and general measures for the rational use and protection of natural resources; development and approval of state plans for the economic and social development of the USSR, approval of reports on their implementation;

6) development and approval of the unified state budget of the USSR, approval of the report on its implementation; management of a single monetary and credit system; the establishment of taxes and incomes for the formation of the USSR state budget; determination of the policy in the field of prices and wages;

7) management of sectors of the national economy, associations and enterprises of union subordination; general management of the branches of the Union-republican subordination;

8) issues of peace and war, protection of sovereignty, protection of state borders and territory of the USSR, organization of defense, leadership of the Armed Forces of the USSR;

9) ensuring state security;

10) representation of the USSR in international relations; relations of the USSR with foreign states and international organizations; establishment of a general order and coordination of relations between the Union republics with foreign states and international organizations; foreign trade and other types of foreign economic activity based on state monopoly;

11) control over the observance of the Constitution of the USSR and ensuring the compliance of the constitutions of the union republics with the Constitution of the USSR;

12) solution of other issues of all-Union significance.

Article 74. The laws of the USSR have the same force on the territory of all Union republics. In the event of a discrepancy between the law of a union republic and an all-union law, the law of the USSR shall apply.

Article 75. The territory of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is unified and includes the territories of the Union republics.
The sovereignty of the USSR extends to its entire territory.

It’s worthwhile to compare this to the timeline of events in the Soviet Union in 1991. Which I intend to to in a future post.
I am just putting out here now that, according to this constitution, most – if not all – actions of body of union republics have either dubious legitimacy or are downright illegal.
This gives rise to conflicts because you have different groups with different ideas and a general lack of legitimacy of the new “nations” which manifests itself in utter bellicosity against its neighbours to justify it’s own existence, permanent chaos, and outright dictatorship.

There’s even a line of thought that claims none of the republics had left the Soviet Union according to the law, thus the Soviet Union de iure still exists.

In future posts I am going to look at some of those new “nations” and former Soviet republics and their inner or outer conflicts.