377 Refugees Flee Nagorno-Karabakh Crisis, Reach Armenia Amid Azerbaijani Blockade

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In the continuing wake of the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis, an initial number of refugees – 377, to be precise – have safely arrived in Armenia, as per local statements released this Sunday. This follows a protracted 10-month blockade by Azerbaijan, culminating in a rapid-fire military assault to reclaim the disputed region.

Evasive action saw a large number of inhabitants transported to a safe haven: a Russian peacekeeping camp located in Nagorno-Karabakh. These operations were orchestrated by Russian peacekeepers first deployed to the region in 2020. However, the exact number of rescued civilians varied between reports, as the grim reality of war set the stage for chaos and confusion.

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One evacuee, keen to protect her identity, painted a disturbing picture of what she escaped. “It was a nightmare. No words can describe it. The village was heavily shelled. Almost everyone fled the village.” Now, she calls a humble grandmother’s house in Tegh village, Armenia, her temporary sanctuary as the world grapples with what happens next.

For decades Nagorno-Karabakh has been a thorn in the side of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Located within Azerbaijan, the region has historically been controlled by ethnic Armenian forces, often supported by the Armenian military. That is until the 2020 six-week war, which saw Azerbaijani forces reclaim major parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and its surrounding territory, previously seized by Armenian forces.

This contention did not only result in territorial reconfigurations but led to Azerbaijan’s blockade on the only lifeline connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia in December 2020. The accusations flew thick and fast, with Armenia advertently blaming Azerbaijan for denying a region inhabited by 120,000 people the basic human rights to food and fuel.

As unrest grew, a heavy artillery assault was launched by Azerbaijan against ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh earlier this week. They were forced to capitulate, submitting to the demands to discard their weapons the following day. The dawn did not bring a resolution, leaving the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh an enigmatic quagmire and the epicentre of ongoing discussions.

Embattled Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan issued a resolute national address yesterday promising to collaborate with international partners to ensure the protection of the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians.

In response to these tumultuous events, Armenia has witnessed a wave of protests against perceived governmental and peacemaker inadequacies in safeguarding the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh. The chorus of dissent rang out against the country’s capital, calling for Pashinyan’s removal.

With the cease-fire agreement inked last week, the separatist forces in Nagorno-Karabakh are left surrendering their weaponry, a process that is still underway, according to the Azerbaijani military.

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