“It has become a mmorgue, don’t you see? Five or six people are visible,” says one of the taxi drivers gathered in the center of Vardenis, stressing that the day is ending, but he hasn’t had at least one customer: he will have to go home in the evening without any earned money.

The city of Vardenis in Gegharkunik district of Armenia is under surveillance of the Azerbaijani military. Along with the security issues, the social issues deepened when the open gold mine of Sotk was closed. The people of Vardenis say that there are households that had two employees in the mine, and now they have become unemployed.

“320 people were fired. My son was working, my brother and my nephew were working [there] to survive. My son has two children: he has no job mow,” he says, moving on to security issues. “We live in fear and panic. People who get into a taxi say they may come and slaughter us at night. When a dog barks, we all hear that: we can’t sleep.”

It became known about the suspension of the open section of the Sotk gold mine at the beginning of June, when the Azerbaijani side was intensively firing at the Armenian positions. The residents of Vardenis consider the exploitation of this mine a security and social guarantee for them. “If the mine is opened, we will hope that the Turks [means Azeris] will not touch us (he means that the Azerbaijani Armed Forces will not fire, – ed.). As of today, the equipment was completely removed, people were fired, so something is wrong here: we are standing on the edge of war,” says the resident of Vardenis.

In this border town, they follow the Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations, both on Russian and Western platforms. Residents find it difficult to say in which capital of the superpower pro-Armenian discussions are taking place; however, there are criticisms of Moscow’s policy. “Russia did not stop the war. We sacrificed so much. I have no hope either from Russia or from the other.”

“There is nothing good,” says another resident in response to questions about security and social issues, and immediately adds: “It seems to me that the security problems will not be solved: if they have not been solved for 100 years, will they be solved now?”

During Nikol Pashinyan’s prime ministership, the minimum pension increased from 16,000 drams to 36,000 drams [about $90], but this amount is not enough for Vardenis pensioners: inflation is suffocating them. “What should I do with {less than] 40 thousand? I have a grandson, I have a child, I want to smoke cigarettes, I want to enjoy life,” says the resident.

In Vardenis, shots fired in the direction of Sotk, Verin Shorzha and other settlements on the border can be heard. What should the state do to make the residents of the border settlements feel safe? The residents of Vardenis point out the vital unresolved problems. “I look at the road, there is no asphalt. Why should there be smooth asphalt in Yerevan, but not here? There is a reason why they do not do it here, how would I know: may be, something has to be given, something they will take. How can we feel safe?”

A resident who runs a fast-food business in the central square of Vardenis considers the city to be half safe and half unsafe. “It is a war situation; I do not rule out that there will be a war. But, the important thing is, we are not afraid. It is our country; we stand firmly on our land.”

In Vardenis, they do not believe that peace agreements will be reached in Moscow, because, according to the residents, Russia started the war itself. Although there are opinions that the negotiations should be continued in the Russian Federation, only, according to the residents, the head of Russian state has to be changed. “Who is America to show us the way? They are destroyers, not guidance showers.”

Another resident of Vardenis, in response to the question of whether he is satisfied with the government’s activities, points to the new asphalt paving implemented in the city center, which is being destroyed by the movement of car wheels. “We live in fear in our hearts. God grant that there will be peace. We live fortuitously.”

Narek Kirakosyan

Narek Kirakosyan

Narek Kirakosyan is a journalist, works on the principle of "a person is an absolute value".

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