Endless Corridor (2014) Movie Script

Vilnius, Lithuania
I am Richardas Lapaitis, a war correspondent.
I am going back 20 years to a story
that has haunted me all this time.
It might have no end, though.
Just as good and evil have no end,
life or death,
justice or denial.
Naftalan, Khojaly survivors refugee camp
It's between Askeran and Agdam.
This is my uncle.
The old man.
His name is Allahverdi.
This is Zakariyas wife.
It's my brother Zakariyas wife.
The only thing necessary for the triumph of the evil
is for good man to do nothing.
Lazdijai, Lithuanian-Polish border
Ricardas Lapaitis
Traveller - war journalist
I wasn't just a traveler.
I was always seeking out something different.
Each journey was a marvellous adventure.
When I cycled from Lithuania to Yerevan,
through all the towns destroyed by the earthquake,
I told them that I was planning to travel
through Nagorno-Karabakh
the fighting hadn't yet flared up
I wanted to go through the Azerbaijani mountains
and ride across the country.
They told me: Don't risk it
they'll kill you in those mountains!
It was in Yerevan that I first heard
that I could be killed by Azerbaijanis.
Richard canceled his trip
and returned by Moscow home to Lithuania.
But a couple of years later
he decided after all to travel to Azerbaijan.
He could not get the Armenians
words out of his head.
Danger can be very attractive.
He booked his ticked.
When he arrived to Baku,
he realised that there really was a war on.
He took a night train to Agdam,
town close to Nagorno-Karabakh.
I didn't know that I would arrive on the day
that the whole country found out
about the Khojaly tragedy.
I didnt know there had been a massacre.
What I saw over the following days
changed my life completely,
my understanding of humanity.
I was later to call it the trip to hell.
Tbilisi, Georgia
In Azerbaijan and Armenia today,
Georgi Vanyan
Armenian peace activist
everybody knows that the Karabakh movement
was incited from the Kremlin.
What started as an environmental
movement in Armenia
was transformed into the Karabakh movement.
Suddenly the slogans Karabakh is ours
and Miacum, which means Unification,
were everywhere.
In a matter of hours,
cells of the Karabakh movement
were created in Armenia.
Only the KGB had the resources to do this.
The Karabakh movement acquired
almost holy status
and the people began to trust
this committee unconditionally.
It was at this time that members of
the movement were arrested.
I describe these arrests as a business trip
to two notorious KGB jails in Moscow.
After six-months
of brainwashing and propaganda,
during which the members of the Karabakh movement
were practically venerated as holy martyrs,
the slogans surreptitiously changed.
Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrosyans
call to be good neighbours
was changed to Fight on to victory!,
Karabakh is ours!
In 1988 when the Karabakh movement began,
I knew about it a couple of months before
I read about it in the newspapers.
Levon Melik-Shakhnazaryan
Ideologue of Karabakh Armenians secessionist movement
I took my family, my wife and children,
and we flew to what was
a completely new place for me,
somewhere I had never been,
Karabakh is a unique
Azerbaijani cultural island,
where the most well renowned MUGAM
music talents were nurtured.
At the beginning of the 19th century,
the first opera and operetta in the Muslim East
were written on the basis of MUGAM
one of the most important pillars
of Azerbaijani culture.
For centuries, the land of Karabakh
was famous for its tolerance
and both Muslims and followers of the local Albanian
Christian church enjoyed peaceful coexistence
as they did a Christianization of Azerbaijan,
where a sizeable Jewish community
also enjoyed good relations.
After the annexation of the Karabakh
khanate to Russia,
more than 100 thousand Armenians
were resettled from Iran and Turkey to Azerbaijan
and mainly to Karabakh
where they felt safe
for the next hundred years.
Clashes between the Azerbaijani
and Armenian population
began early on the 20th century
and in the 1918
Armenians and Bolsheviks
massacred the civilian population of Baku.
The Azerbaijan democratic republic
was from 1918 to 1920
the first democratic republic
in the Muslim East
and it included Nagorno-Karabakh
as was recognized by the British commander
Allied troops on site.
Despite this in 1923
the Soviet Union granted
autonomous status
to the mountainous part of Karabakh
within the borders
of the newly created Soviet Azerbaijan.
The region's borders were drawn
to include villages
and exclude as many Azerbaijani
villages as possible.
This resulted in an Armenian majority.
In a show of sinister symbolism
the provincial capital of the new autonomy
was named Stepanakert
after Armenian Commissar Stepan Shaumyan,
mastermind of the 1918 Baku massacre.
Some 17 years later in the early 1990s
with the collapse with the Soviet Union
Azerbaijan and Armenia
regain their independence
no longer restrained by the limitations
of membership of a common Union.
And expansionist ambitions re-emerged.
At first, I had serious doubts
and I say it openly
about the intellectual capacity of my nation.
Levon Melik-Shakhnazaryan
Ideologue of Karabakh Armenians secessionist movement
We had been slaughtered
and people responded by flocking to the memorial
to the genocide in Ottoman Turkey,
laying flowers and lighting candles.
That was when
and I don't hide it
I decided that we should start
to respond properly.
Every nation, without exception,
has to fight to come into being
or is revived through fighting.
A nation is born through the pain
of vast lands and numbers of people.
Our nation was revived.
We organized self-defense
groups in the villages,
collected weapons and
distributed them to our fighters.
After my arrival in Agdam
and saw a horrible scene.
Karabakh city in 1992
Hundreds of corpses
were brought in to the city.
More and more refugees were arriving.
As Richard walked into the Agdam hospital,
he found the young man in a horrible state.
Married only a month before.
Had been taken prisoner by the Armenians
and realized in exchanged for two cans of petrol.
His mother saw Richard's camera
and took him for a foreign journalist.
She gave me a photo and said:
Young man go home and tell them
what you have seen here.
I realized that her dying son
reflected the fate of the town
destroyed on that night.
This was the start of my journey
to find and tell the truth.
Then I heard his name
for the first time Valeh.
Richard has been writing about the survivors
of the Khojaly tragedy for 20 years.
Local bus line to Naftalan
Now he learns that the young man
he saw in the Agdam hospital,
the one who was held prisoner
by the Armenians,
tortured half to death
and swapped for a few cans of gasoline,
had survived.
Khojaly survivors refugee camp
Had you always lived in Khojaly?
Yes I was born there,
went to school there
and got married there.
Russians and other ethnic groups
lived there as well.
We never thought, Oh,
theyre Russians, theyre Armenians.
We were just friends
and we got on well.
Naftalan, Internet cafe
Look this is Lithuania.
I had a long journey to Azerbaijan.
Now can you show me your house?
Valeh's new home
and his grandfather's house
were right next to the airport.
In early 1992 before the attack on Khojali
the Armenian forces
occupied it surrounding villages
and drew out Azerbaijani population.
By 1992 Khojaly had become a second most
populated town in a region
homed to about 6,000 people.
Azerbaijanis and Meskitian Turks.
Besides having
the only airport of the region
Khojaly itself stood as a symbol of asylum to Azerbaijanis
expelled from other places in Karabakh.
The previous October,
Armenian forces had cut the Khojaly-Agdam road
connecting the town with mainland Azerbaijan.
The only way to reach it now was by helicopter.
The town had also been without electricity
and gas for several months.
The Armenian assault
began on the night of 25th February.
Armored vehicles from 366th regiment
surrounded Khojaly before the Armenian fighters
went in and overwhelmed the local defenders.
There any possible escape rout
involves a dangerous journey across a river
and through forested mountains.
Late in the evening on 25th February
I was at home,
Khojaly survivor
when heavy shelling
began from all sides.
I went to the window
and saw the big apple tree
in my grandfather's yard
split in two by a shell.
I realized that the Armenians
were already very close.
I got my wife and we ran.
Outside we saw our neighbors
running to escape the attacks
of machine-guns and artillery.
Then tanks came.
Wherever they saw a crowd, they opened fire.
The people panicked
women, children, the elderly.
Everyone was sucked into the chaos.
There was never any question for me
then or now
that we had to liberate Khojaly
from those gangs.
We provided a corridor through which
they could get out safely
and told them so many times.
I was the first person to tell them
about this on television.
I said we will clear Khojaly
of bandit groups
and suggested that the civilian population
either hide in suitable places
or leave what will inevitably be a combat zone
through this corridor.
The corridor will be safe.
However the human rights group
Helsinki Watch have confirmed
that no surviving witnesses
knew beforehand of a safe corridor.
And without power
a televised warning seems implausible
There was only one escape route
and it's was under attack from all sides.
We went down here
and crossed the river.
Valeh helped his group of 50 to cross the river
before finally take over
and himself his wife on his shoulders.
As he lifted to down on the river bank
he slipped exhausted back into the water
Now, soaked to the skin,
he, his wife and they group
moved off in the long chain
skirting the mountains toward safety
after more than thirteen kilometers
cold and exhausted
was they crossed of valley outside Askeran
They came on the fire from outsides.
It is open country
and impossible to escape.
Around 500 people lost their lives.
It was here,
near the castle,
just outside Askeran.
I had things that I couldn't even imagine.
They told me that hundreds of
them were massacred.
I couldn't believe it.
I thought it was an exaggeration.
But they were describing the details.
People told me how they fled,
how they crossed a big river.
It was the 25th of February,
minus 12 degrees centigrade.
There were a lot of witnesses.
So I hardly had room to write down
their testimonies in my diary.
In the first line were the Russian solders
from the 366th regiment.
Elman Mamadov
Former civic leader of Khojaly
They were wearing their body armor
and flack jackets.
And after them came the Armenian gangsters.
We couldn't stay any longer
and had to leave the battleground.
But they build an ambush
and were waiting for us.
All our civilians,
children, women, old people were massacred.
Elman Mammadov
Former civic leader of Khojaly
Besides, the whole
366th motorized infantry battalion
belonging to the Soviet army
was appropriated by the Armenians.
They had collected so many forces,
what could Khojali do against this power.
It was impossible to hear anything
because of the thunder of the guns.
And the houses one by one were exploding.
This was a settlement,
so naturally, besides houses,
there were haystacks,
various wood constructions etc.
that were burning.
The sky turned red.
The operation was planned by Colonel now Major
General Arkady Ivanovich Ter-Tadevosyan
according to all the rules of war.
We even invited architects
who made a model of Khojaly.
Our guys used this model to prepare the attack
and decide which units
would attack the town and from where.
Yerevan, Armenia
Gen. Arkady Ter-Tadevosyan
Commander of Khojaly assault
Yes, I devised and commanded the operation.
If you surround the enemy,
they will put up fierce resistance.
You have to leave a road
for them to get out.
When we attacked a village or district
in order to destroy those illegal armed gangs,
we realized that the easier and safer
it is for the population to leave,
the fewer losses we will have.
You see, this whole situation
is down to politicians.
It was what they did
that brought about the situation.
We didnt play the main role.
We're dispensable: we kill them,
they kill us, we die, they die.
A politician's goal is to show the whole
world how important they are.
That's why they need a lot of blood!
A lot of blood!
A meat grinder to show what an important
role they play!
We were under heavy fire from all sides.
Bullets were whistling overhead.
My wife was walking behind me
and suddenly I heard her cry out.
I turned and asked what's wrong.
Nothing, she said
shaking her head.
I put my hand on her side
to help her move further
and felt something warm on my hand.
I saw her blood.
I froze
and she did not say anything more.
Several people came up who were behind us.
Some of them said,
Let's go. Don't waste your time, she's dead.
I said,
Either I go with her
or I stay here and die with her.
Look, look! They are taking a woman hostage!
The lucky few was saved by friendly Azerbaijani soldiers
on the way to secure Qaragaya
But there were hundreds of others
less fortunate...
We were going,
suddenly they shot my mother.
I ran to her and so that she is not moving.
My father came close to me and lifted me,
he said, - stand up, let's go.
Khazangul Amirova
Khojaly survivor
I said, - no, I cannot leave my mom here.
He said, - we have to,
because Armenians may catch us.
I was just 8 years old,
I did not understand
what it meant to die.
We ran a little and suddenly realized
that Armenians have surrounded us.
I hold my sisters hand,
they told us that males should be separated from females
and I took my sister and stood aside.
They directed the guns to us.
They shot my sister,
she was two years younger than me,
she released my hand
and fell down
and we left her there as well.
Armenians took us to Askeran,
they captured us.
Valeh and the other refugees
were taken to Askeran
and thrown in the basement
of the local police prison.
Valeh was badly tortured.
He couldnt move
and looked like he was dead.
His face was really bruised and swollen,
he couldn't even open his mouth.
An Armenian said to him:
You play Karabakh music on your guitar?
We'll get you for that,
and he pressed his hands onto a hot stove,
burning his fingers.
His legs were hurt,
his mouth torn open
and he couldn't speak.
He didn't look human.
Valeh was in a really bad way,
worse than me,
even though I thought things
couldnt be any worse.
During his torturous weeks in captivity,
Valeh clung to the hope that Azerbaijani soldiers
would have saved all the others at Qaragaya
and that his wife's body had been attended to.
Ghost 366th
Then Azerbaijan declared its independence
and refused to host any Russian
military bases on its territory,
which is adjacent to Iran and Turkey.
Of course, this undermined
Russia's strategic position.
Around 50 of the 350 or so remaining soldiers
of the 366th Regiment were Armenian,
including the commander of its 2nd Battalion,
Major Seyran Ohanyan.
For the Karabakh Armenians,
the regiment and its large stores
of weaponry were a godsend.
Prof. Yuri Pompeyev
Russian writer and activist
Russia, as one of the sides, should take responsibility
for what happened in Khojaly.
The 366th Regiment played the main role
in Khojaly, unfortunately.
The 366th Regiment was stationed in Stepanakert
and some Armenian officers joins this.
One of them is now a commander
of Karabakh forces,
another is Chechen Valeriy,
and another was recently
the minister of defense of Armenia.
They were with me at that time.
Moreover, it was a Russian, not USSR, regiment.
All the soldiers were drunk
after Army Day on 23rd February,
theres a lot of evidence of that.
It was basically a gang
that was used by the Armenians
who were the leaders at the time
and are now ruling the country,
by the current president, Serzh Sarkisyan,
and current defense minister,
Seyran Ohanyan, who was then a major.
This article entitled
The truth about Khojaly
was written by Levon Melik Shakhnazaryan,
a leader of the Armenian Karabakh Secessionist Movement.
In the article he shows an Armenian map
It indicates the fourth zone of attack
on the airport with heavy armament.
It inadvertently shows a note on the map
... ZHENYA referring to Yevgeny Nabokikh,
then commander of the third battalion
of the 366th Regiment
Russia is involved too in this tragedy
of the Azeri nation and this is regrettable.
That's why the repentance of Russia is very important,
especially of the former Russian leadership.
However, they are no longer leaders.
Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin who personally
decided the fate of the 366th Regiment,
Marshal Shaposhnikov, who was the head
of the Russian and Commonwealth forces
and in fact this regiment was under his command.
It is remarkable that indifference smothers everything.
The evidence of journalists, including Victoria Ivleva,
who was in the second wave of the assault,
throws up some very interesting stories.
Victoria Ivleva made that slogan
Only the dead are left in Khojaly
the headline of her article in Moscow News.
Madonna from Khojaly
Now you'd better tell me the whole story
about how you found this woman.
Victoria Ivleva-Yorke
Photo-journalist witnessed Kojaly assault
Well, the chain was very interesting.
When you sent me the picture of the woman and
the idea of looking for her, we looked all over,
but I soon realized that it was pointless
to look via official channels.
I had to do it myself, using private contacts.
Shanin Hajiyev
Some looked and said yes, some said no,
but it was obvious that they weren't sure.
It was my toughest research in 25 years as a journalist.
There was one more reason,
another obstacle that made it difficult.
Women from Khojaly try to hide the fact
that they were held prisoner.
They dont even go to testify,
their husbands do that instead.
Why do they hide that they were prisoners?
Because of rape.
I sent a photo to someone in Sabirabad
and at last I got a reply.
Someone recognized her, but said
that she lives in another village,
gave me the name and so on.
I said go and check it out right away
and later he called back and said,
Yes, it's her!
Would you like to see what she looks like now?
Right now? Yes, I would.
I've blown up the photo.
Compare the two.
I think it's her.
Looks very similar...
Khojaly survivors refugee camp
Khojaly survivor
do you remember me?
Do you remember?
Do I look the same?
You don't speak Russian?
Where is the girl?
Where is she?
She was only two days old.
She's ill.
And she cannot speak.
Does she understand us?
No, she doesn't.
It doesn't matter.
What's her name?
Even if she doesn't understand,
please tell her that I carried her in my arms
when she was just one day old.
Don't cry, Mehriban.
Don't cry. It's all over.
Do you remember how the attack began?
We were being shelled every day.
When the Armenians began firing, we hid in
basements and spent hours there.
My daughter was born in a basement on
23rd of February among men and women.
I didn't leave the basement until late
in the evening of 25th February,
not until the Armenian assault began.
How were you taken prisoner?
They took us from the basement.
It's me there.
Look, here you are in the picture.
How did the Armenians alllow you take these photos?
I was with the Armenians, remember.
When we moved off and I was carrying your daughter,
a soldier rode up on his horse
and hit me with the bottom of his rifle
They thought that I was a prisoner, too.
My one-day-old baby fell out of my hands
and you found her.
I remember you brought me the girl
And returned her to me in this place.
There she is in that picture with a blanket.
It's the same blanket on the other picture.
That's where you handed her over to me.
Ask her if she remembers that we wondered where
to hide the money so that it wasn't taken?
In our boots or bras?
Yes, yes, she told me herself, hide it there.
Where did you put it?
In to your bra?
Ask her.
It's impolite
It's polite, don't worry.
Where did you hide the money?
I hid it there.
It's all over.
They were hard times and I don't want
to go through it all again.
No, I want only one thing
for this girl to get well.
Death valley
The men who sacrificed their lives
to protect their families
not knowing that their women and children
had been ambushed and murdered
actually died in vain.
It affected Richard in ways he didn't expect.
His thoughts turned to questions of right and wrong.
When he began his journey,
Richard was concerned
with giving the voice to the survivors.
The people who had lost everything
children, parents and home.
And the human right to live in peace with dignity.
But the more he met and listened
to people on both sides,
the more he felt they are moving
for those who killed
and those who been killed.
Why they were killed and by whom
are the main questions for me personally.
I am pretty sure,
but it's impossible to prove it,
that all these people
were killed by mistake.
They were scared and shot them at night.
They were trying to protect their own people.
They thought they were Armenians and shot them.
You think they will confess that they did it themselves?
Of course, they'll say it was us.
Their argument contrasts with
what I've heard from survivors.
Archive footage shows people
were shot in cold blood.
It gives the opposite answer to the question
who did it?
When the Armenian controlled corridor from
Khojaly was closed to foreign media,
there was only one journalist - an Azerbaijani
who was allowed to film in the territory
controlled by the Armenians.
How are you?
At the time Richard wondered
why he got this access.
And now he came to ask him directly.
I was a military cameraman at that time.
Early in the morning of 26th February
when I went to the office,
my boss told me about the tragedy in Khojaly.
We had military helicopters.
We scrambled a helicopter and by about 2 pm
we had reached Agdam.
The bodies of the dead were being brought in by the dozen.
After the Khojaly massacre,
we couldn't collect all the dead.
Nobody knew how many there were and where they were.
Those who had escaped talked about hundreds of victims.
There were many corpses, especially near
Askeran controlled by Armenians.
We had a deal with the Armenians to exchange bodies.
But now, there were so many dead civilians
that the Armenians couldn't deal with them,
or didn't want to.
This was the largest number of victims
in the whole Karabakh war.
Our local field commander in Agdam,
Allahverdi Bagirov
knew the Armenian commander in Askeran,
Vitaly Balasanyan.
They had played together on the Karabakh
soccer team, back in the Soviet days.
Vitaliy Balasanyan
Commander of Askeran forces
I went to see Allahverdi
who was discussing with Vitaly
about collecting corpses near Askeran.
Vitaly didn't want us to go there,
but then he checked it with Stepanakert
and agreed.
However he had some conditions:
foreign journalists could not film
him or his soldiers.
Then Allahverdi and I left together.
Was there an Armenian post there?
There was.
We sat in Armenian cars
and headed for Askeran,
passing the post between Agdam and Askeran.
We were with the Armenian military,
when we reached Askeran.
It was a horrible scene.
Many corpses had been mutilated.
Vitaly and his fighters
were next to me the whole time.
Telling me film this,
but not this.
But I didn't switch off my camera.
I held it down at my side and kept recording.
Oh, God!
Do not forgive this!
My motherland!
Oh, Azeri land!
Whenever I could, I lifted up my camera
and filmed all around.
I managed to record Vitaly himself at the site
where it happened.
So, are you sure the territory was
under Armenian control?
Of course!
Why else would Armenian commander
Vitaly Balasanyan have been there?
I didn't know that on the other side of
the front-line in Askeran and Khojaly,
Arturas Zuokas, a Lithuanian journalist had
interviewed Armenian commanders.
What's your opinion,
your first impression about yesterday's events?
Yesterday, the town
stop filming.
At the same time the new masters were
settling in to devastated Khojaly.
They threw innocent people out in the street
and confiscated their homes.
As I listened to Seyidaga,
I still didnt understand
why they let an Azerbaijani cameramen
film the crime scene.
I think they wanted the Azerbaijani people
to be in shock,
to be afraid.
Year's later, British journalist Thomas de Waal
came to the same conclusion.
He quotes the current president of Armenia, Serzh Sarkisyan,
who was then a military commander,
on the reasons for the Khojaly massacre.
I think the main point is something different.
Before Khojaly, the Azerbaijanis thought
that they were joking with us,
they thought that the Armenians were people
who could not raise their hand
against the civilian population.
We were able to break that stereotype
And that's what happened
I want to repeat again,
and not in order to justify myself:
we had no intention of fighting civilians,
especially not corpses.
Where is the logic?
What is there to talk about?
The mere fact that there is a strict taboo
on the topic of Khojaly in Armenia
makes me think that it was a crime against humanity.
The people, who committed those crimes in Khojaly
will stand before a court.
I am sure that it will happen in our lifetime.
I hope that the Armenians
will overcome their fears.
Endless corridor
The woman our soldiers are carrying
is my wife
Gunay was born in sieged Khojaly
on 23rd of February, 1992
...died on 17.03.2011 in the
refugee camp for Khojaly survivors
613 men, women and children
were massacred in Khojaly,
February 25-26, 1992
and more than 150 are still missing
No one has ever stood trial
for this massacre
and human rights violation
Despite four resolutions
by the United Nations calling for an immediate,
complete and unconditional withdrawal,
Armenia continues to occupy Nagorno-Karabakh
and surrounding territories to this day