Possible options: revenge for criticism or an unwillingness to spoil relations with the Kremlin " />

Why wasn’t Russian blogger Ilya Varlamov allowed into Azerbaijan?

Possible options: revenge for criticism or an unwillingness to spoil relations with the Kremlin

Russian blogger Ilya Varlamov arrived by plane in Baku on the evening of 2 November, where border guards told him that his presence in Azerbaijan was “undesirable”.

Reasons were not given. The blogger had two options: to wait a day at the airport and fly back to Moscow on the next flight, or buy tickets to any other destination at his own expense. Varlamov chose Istanbul.

Ilya Varlamov is a Russian blogger and entrepreneur known for his travel notes and photo stories from different cities of Russia and across the world. In his voyages, he writes two reports about every city he visits – one about everything good, and one about everything bad.

Azerbaijan’s media and state structures did not react to the incident.

Social media users are wondering why Varlamov was not allowed into the country, given that the official list of unwanted visitors on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not include his name.

The usual reason for a ban on entry into Azerbaijan is a visit to Nagorno-Karabakh, an unrecognized republic in the south-west of Azerbaijan which is under the control of Armenia.

From the point of view of the Azerbaijani legislation, anyone who enters Karabakh through Armenia and “avoids” Azerbaijani border guards violates the law.

Varlamov, however, has never been to Karabakh.

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Revenge for criticism

“I have never visited Nagorno-Karabakh and have not violated the legislation of Azerbaijan. Perhaps the reason lies with some of my older posts about Baku,” the blogger suggested, referring to his previous visit.

He visited in 2016 and, as usual, wrote not only about good Baku but also about bad Baku – for example, he mentioned issues concerning slums, garbage and unemployment.

“Respect” for Moscow?

“It seems likely that there is another version of events based on the political position of Varlamov.

“He recently actively covered the demonstrations of the Russian opposition and protest rallies on Bolotnaya Square. He put forward his candidacy for mayor in Moscow and Omsk where he was supported by the opposition figure Alexei Navalny.

“It is possible that the authorities of Azerbaijan did not want to see such a rowdy person in their house,” political analyst Shahin Rzayev told JAMnews.

Social media discussions

The incident concerning Varlamov is mainly being discussed by the Russian-speaking population of Baku who work in the same field:

Typical comments include:

“No, is this what we needed?)) They didn’t let him in, so the Armenians invited him right away. We can say we commissioned a post [from him] entitled “Beautiful Yerevan”. Is this what we needed?”

“What kind of person is he that we should be worried about him? There was probably a reason for not letting him in.”

“It is terribly offensive to us Bakuvians. Our state, in spite of the image created by the president, is far from being as hospitable as we would like. Everything is disgusting from a political point of view. No criticism is tolerated.”

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