Ilham Aliyev waited a long time for the right time. The Azerbaijani ruler has been sitting in the presidential chair for 20 years. On September 19, he finally saw the time come for his great project: the final incorporation of Nagorno-Karabakh into his empire. As Russia sinks into its war in Ukraine and the West looks to the Ukrainian battlefields, Aliyev launched a large-scale military offensive against Nagorno-Karabakh. Just one day later, the pro-Armenian fighters had to accept a ceasefire agreement.

Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan under international law, but the area is predominantly populated by Armenians. Azerbaijan and Armenia have been fighting over the territory since the 1990s, when both countries were no longer bound together by Soviet chains. The largest conflict to date broke out in autumn 2020. In a 44-day war, Azerbaijan conquered large parts of the region. The conflict was ended in a joint declaration – negotiated with the mediation of Vladimir Putin. Nagorno-Karabakh should therefore belong to Azerbaijan. Russian peacekeepers were to be stationed there for over five years. The agreement was also signed by Putin.

When Aliyev gave the order for his so-called “anti-terror operation” in Nagorno-Karabakh, he also attacked Russian peacekeepers. The Azerbaijani military fired on a Russian military vehicle. Five people died, including the deputy commander of the Russian peacekeepers.

When the Kremlin was working on a reason for the attack in Ukraine at the beginning of 2022, Putin was also happy with a fake attack on a supposed FSB border post. The clamor of propaganda following this production was deafening. The tenor was that Ukraine had attacked Russian autonomy. But now five Russian soldiers actually died. And what do you hear from the Kremlin? Nothing.

The Ministry of Defense reported the deaths of its own military personnel in a single sentence. No precise information followed, neither the names of the soldiers nor the circumstances of their deaths. There has been no comment from Putin about the incident so far. There were no furious accusations from the Foreign Ministry. And the Kremlin propagandists also remained silent. The Kremlin apparently decided not to notice the deaths of five soldiers.

This reaction from the Russian leadership shows not only contempt for its own soldiers, but also Russia’s current role on the world stage.

The Azerbaijani ruler Aliyev acted in the knowledge that he had nothing to fear from Moscow. He attacked Armenia, although Russia still wants to see Armenia as an ally; although Armenia is in a military alliance with Russia. But the Kremlin swallowed the affront – because Putin had no other choice. Azerbaijan is allied with Turkey. And Putin needs Erdogan like never before.

So in recent days, Kremlin propaganda has clearly shown that Moscow is ready to stab its ally Armenia in the back in order to maintain relations with Baku and Ankara. In order to make Moscow’s betrayal of its ally forgotten, the propagandists are now calling the Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan a traitor – all of us in unison.

“You American jackal! So we’re supposed to go to war for you?! This is your fault, Pashinyan,” said one of the hosts of the Solovyov Live channel indignantly. However, he preferred not to mention that a military alliance exists precisely for the purpose of mutual military aid. The head of the house, Vladimir Solovyov, followed up: “Here is your traitor! He has betrayed a thousand years of history because of his hatred for the Karabakh clan that was in power before him,” the Kremlin servant, mostly dressed in black, shouted in his highest voice aggressive manner.

But of all people, two propagandists from Armenia surpassed Solovyov in his hate tirades: Margarita Simonyan and her husband Tigran Keosayan. “What did you get that, after the 44-day war, this freak and traitor, who was hiding in bunkers, remained alive and was re-elected?” said Keossayan to the Armenian population, referring to Pashinyan , who was re-elected prime minister in 2021.

What’s more: The propagandist in the Kremlin’s service did not accuse the Azerbaijani military of being responsible for the deaths of the Russian soldiers, but rather the Armenian people. “If Russian peacekeepers die there, then they die for those Armenians whom you – formal Armenians whose last names end in ‘-jan’ – betrayed together with your Pashinyan!” Keossayan snapped, displaying pathos.

Keossayan divides the Armenians into good and bad. The good guys are those who support Putin – including him. The bad ones are those who, like Pashinyan, want to turn away from Russia. You belong in court for the Kremlin propagandist. However, he imagines a court somewhat removed from the rule of law. In his view, the evil Armenians should serve their life sentences in a “hole in the ground.” Above all, Pashinyan himself. “Generations of Armenian students should then be led to the hole in the ground and shown the stinking, dirty-haired monster at the bottom of the hole. They should then be told: This is the traitor who is responsible for the deaths of thousands and contributes to the humiliation of our people. (…) I wish the same fate for you, you scum,” Keossajan concluded his hate speech.

His wife and head of the RT broadcaster, Margarita Simonjan, continued the tirade elsewhere. “The Armenian people did not elect Pashinyan. I am the Armenian people, my husband, Tigran, is the Armenian people. There are far more people living in Russia than in Armenia. (..) All the people I know who live here “We understood from the beginning what kind of Judas he was,” claimed Simonyan in a broadcast by Vladimir Solovyov.

“Nagorno-Karabakh is a shrine of Armenia,” Simonyan continued. The area is for Armenians what Crimea is for Russians. She hastened to clarify that she identifies as both Russian and Armenian. “I was born in Russia. I grew up here and of course I’m here now. All my grandmothers and grandfathers were born here. But ethnically I’m Armenian, and a purebred one at that.” It is probably this ideology that Simonyan reveals here that leads her to believe that she and her husband should be able to elect the leader of Armenia – even though they were both born in Russia.

The loss of Nagorno-Karabakh is an “incredible pain”. “This country is soaked in blood and has a thousand-year history. And now it’s just gone in a day. Of course no one will stay there,” she concluded. Simonyan is fully aware of the far-reaching consequences that now threaten the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh. But in the narrative of Kremlin propaganda, the blame for this does not lie with the Azerbaijani dictator, or even with the Kremlin, which was unable to support its ally. No, the culprits are the Armenians who elected Pashinyan.

“The blame lies with all of you who voted for this Judas, this person without heart, honor and conscience. Who betrayed the sanctuary of his people and sold his people,” Simonyan repeated the mantra given to the propagandists from the Kremlin .

The narrative has several tasks at the same time. First: The question of the Kremlin’s inaction should be nipped in the bud. Putin does not want to appear as a traitor to his military ally Armenia. Second: The narrative is a gesture towards Azerbaijan. Moscow is signaling to Baku that there will be no consequences – both for the deaths of Russian soldiers and for the breach of the joint agreement. Russia is thus making a demonstrative change of sides. While Armenia has little to offer geopolitically, Azerbaijan is an ally of Turkey. Russia needs the north-south corridor to Iran via Azerbaijan and Turkey as an alternative trade route. And third: The narrative creates a new enemy and at the same time explains to Russians why another former Soviet state is turning against Russia.

In fact, it is this gradual turn away from Russia by Armenia that is sending shivers of fear down Putin’s spine. The scenario of a second Ukraine is his nightmare. And Putin doesn’t forgive his own fear. Yevgeny Prigozhin only recently experienced this firsthand.

And yet the Kremlin and with it its propaganda are taking the same fatal path. The familiar slogans are echoing from the TV screens again. Now it is Armenia that owes its very existence to Russia.

The Armenians must bow deeply “to Mother Russia for saving the existence of the Armenian people at that time. Without Russia, the entire nation would have been destroyed long ago,” Simonyan tried to convince her audience. Like many Armenians, she found a home in Russia. “I feel like a part of this huge homeland. (…) All those who now dare to snort at my homeland or ask why we didn’t protect and save them are people who elected a leader that did not recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as independent or part of Armenia.”

This is exactly what the agreement between Pashinyan, Aliyev and Putin, which was concluded after the 44-day war, provided for. But no one in Russia will be reminded of this.