At least 19,000 displaced people from Nagorno Karabakh have already crossed the border into Armenia | International

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Thousands of people in buses, trucks and private vehicles have left Nagorno-Karabakh for Armenia and thousands more expect to do so in the coming days. The Government of Armenia announced this Tuesday that at least 19,000 people have already crossed the border. The enclave – with an Armenian majority, but in territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan – had 120,000 inhabitants before, last week, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces launched their latest offensive with the aim of regaining full control of the region, which from Baku they describe it as “separatist.”

“The flow of internally displaced people continued throughout the night. “Work is underway to establish their needs and provide them with accommodation,” the National Council of Armenia stated this Monday. Refugees arriving in the Republic of Armenia are being identified and, if they do not have an address for family or friends to go to, they are being relocated to locations near the border.

Several images published on social networks show long lines of private vehicles occupying the highway leading from Nagorno Karabakh to Armenia. “People are desperately trying to find gas, while others are waiting for the bus to leave,” Siranush Sargsián, a journalist living in Stepanakert (the capital of the enclave) posted on his X (formerly Twitter) account.

On Monday afternoon, a serious incident occurred at the Stepanakert fuel distribution center when a gasoline tank exploded, causing the death of at least 20 people who had come to get fuel to fill the tanks of their vehicles and power. leave. The reason for the explosion is unknown. The shortage of fuel due to the Azerbaijani blockade of the enclave has forced it to be rationed for months and that is why hundreds of people were queuing at the time of the explosion.

Rescue personnel at the area of ​​the Stepanakert fuel distribution center explosion on Monday.MINISTRY OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS, RE (via REUTERS)

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The injured were sent to the Republican Hospital and the Stepanakert Children's Hospital for treatment, and several resident accounts in the enclave posted videos and photographs of hundreds of people waiting outside the medical centers. The large number of injured people and the lack of medical personnel and medicines due to the blockade mean that not everyone can be treated. “To save lives, it is urgent that they be evacuated by air,” the Ombudsman's office published.

The authorities of the so-called Republic of Artsakh, as the Armenians call Nagorno Karabakh, have asked the population not to panic and not to rush to leave, since the flight is causing traffic jams and preventing the arrival of humanitarian convoys and the evacuation of the wounded. Since the 2020 war, this road – the so-called Lachin corridor – is the only route connecting Karabakh with Armenia. The president of the self-proclaimed republic, Samvel Shahramanián, assured his fellow citizens that anyone who wants to leave the enclave will be able to do so, but asked to prioritize the evacuation of those people who have lost their homes by having to escape from the towns affected by the fighting and the advance of Azerbaijani troops.

This Monday, retired general Vitali Balasanián, former head of the National Security Council, former deputy and presidential candidate in the last elections in the enclave, assured in statements to the Armenian channel 24news that he will remain in Nagorno Karabakh, as it is the place where he has always lived. He is the first political leader to openly express his willingness to stay after the surrender of Armenian forces and the announcement that the enclave will be “reintegrated” into the administrative structure of Azerbaijan without any special status.

Meanwhile, the Karabakhs continue to bury their dead. Although there has been no official update on the number of Armenian victims of the recent Azerbaijani offensive beyond the 200 given on Wednesday, the Ministry of the Interior of the enclave published this Monday that, during Saturday and Sunday, another 102 bodies – four of them civilians – in several villages.

Several refugees, yesterday in front of a Red Cross office near the Armenian border with Nagorno Karabakh.
Several refugees, yesterday in front of a Red Cross office near the Armenian border with Nagorno Karabakh.ALAIN JOCARD (AFP)

In addition, representatives of Karabakh and the Azerbaijani government met for the second time since Thursday, although unofficial information claims that another informal meeting took place over the weekend. Negotiators agreed to establish working groups to focus on different problems and alleviate the humanitarian situation.

Erdogan and Aliyev meeting

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, on Monday in the exclave of Nakhchivan, a region of Azerbaijan separated from the rest of the territory and sandwiched between Armenia and Turkey. The purpose of the visit was the start of work on a gas pipeline that will connect Nakhchivan and Turkey, but it was also an act of support from the Turkish president, a key ally of Azerbaijan in its latest military victories, which Erdogan himself described as “a source of pride.”

The Azerbaijani leader took the opportunity to send a message to Armenia, accusing the former Soviet Union of seizing the territory of Western Zangezur (the Armenian province of Syunik) from Azerbaijan “and thus cutting the geographical ties between Nakhchivan and the rest” of the country. Through this territory, it is planned to establish the so-called Zangezur corridor that would cross Armenian soil, one of the conditions of the 2020 ceasefire, and that would serve, in addition to uniting both Azerbaijani territories, to lower the costs of transporting goods. Turks towards the Caucasus and Central Asia. “The construction of the railway between Azerbaijan, Nakhchivan and Türkiye is progressing successfully. “Probably, the work on the territory of Azerbaijan will be completed by the end of next year,” Aliyev assured.

In principle, this corridor should remain under Russian supervision, but after the passivity shown by Moscow when defending the Armenians despite being strategic allies, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia, Ararat Mirzoyan, considered that it is “inadmissible” that these roads are not under the control of Yerevan. In fact, it is a complicated issue for the current Government of Nikol Pashinián, surrounded by protests from the opposition, who accuse him of being a traitor and of not defending Armenian sovereignty. More than 80 people have been detained in protests over the past week and this Monday another eight people from an organization called Crusaders for War and Homeland, including a former mayor of Yerevan, were detained on charges of plotting a coup d'état. and the assassination of the prime minister.

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