More than 68,000 people have fled to Armenia from the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which Azerbaijan took control of last week after a lightning military operation. This is more than half the estimated population of the separatist region. Referring to the spokesperson of the Armenian Prime Minister, Reuters reported on this on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has declared that there will be no Armenians left in the region in the coming days, accusing Azerbaijan of ethnic cleansing. Baku objected to this and denied the accusation.
“The exodus of Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh continues. Our analysis shows that there will be no more Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh in the coming days. It is an act of ethnic cleansing against which we warned the international community,” said the head of the Armenian government, according to AFP. He called on the world to act and punish Azerbaijan.
Armenia without Karabakh. Armenia without Russia?
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has been expressing dissatisfaction with Russia’s security guarantees for at least several months. Azerbaijan’s recapture of Nagorno-Karabakh under the supervision of Russian “peacekeepers” only gives it more motivation to look for other allies.
On Thursday, the President of the Karabakh Republic, Samvel Shahramanian, also signed a decree on the abolition of all state institutions with effect from January 1, 2024. The internationally unrecognized state unit of the Republic of Arcach will thus cease to exist at the beginning of next year. With reference to local authorities, foreign press agencies inform about it.
According to the Russian TASS agency, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan condemned and rejected the Armenian Prime Minister’s accusation of ethnic cleansing. According to the department, he is trying to “thwart Azerbaijan’s efforts to provide humanitarian aid and the reintegration process.” Baku has previously stated that it will not force the people of Karabakh to leave and will integrate the region into Azerbaijan.
“The state provides suitable housing to all those who do not have a predetermined place of residence,” she previously quoted from a statement by the Armenian government to AFP. At the same time, she reminds that Azerbaijan opened the Lachin Corridor on Sunday, which is the only land link between Karabakh and Armenia, which was blocked by Baku for many months.
According to Reuters, most people are fleeing on this road, now overcrowded. Many travel in fully loaded cars, trucks and tractors and describe how they spent a hungry and frightened night in the cold mountains.
Azerbaijan launched a military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh last Tuesday to take control of the region. Not long after, Azerbaijani troops broke through the defensive positions of the Armenian separatists and the Karabakh authorities capitulated. As a result, tens of thousands of people are leaving Nagorno-Karabakh, fearing persecution and ethnic cleansing despite statements from Baku promising to respect their rights.
The future of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Caucasus
A flash defeat of the separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh can shake up the entire region. According to an analyst from the International Crisis Group, several worrying scenarios are possible. “The tension is high,” says Alissa de Carbonnel on Lenka Kabrhelova’s 5:59 podcast.
Tens of thousands of Armenians left their homes in just a few days. Reuters described the current situation as an exodus unprecedented in the South Caucasus since the war that hit the region in the 1990s. At that time, hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis also fled.
About 120,000 ethnic Armenians were reportedly living in the region before last week’s conflict began. Some residents have previously described having very limited access to food, electricity or fuel and effectively living under siege.
Pashinyan also accused the Azerbaijanis of “arbitrarily detaining” Armenians at checkpoints on Thursday. “Their rights should be protected on the international stage,” said the Armenian Prime Minister.
On Wednesday, Azerbaijani security forces arrested Ruben Vardanyan, the former head of the cabinet of the unrecognized Karabakh Republic, in the Lachin Corridor and subsequently accused him of several crimes, including financing terrorism.