Russia Aids Evacuation of Armenians Amid Azerbaijan’s Claim on Nagorno-Karabakh

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In an attempt to quell ongoing hostilities, Russia has facilitated the evacuation of approximately 2,000 ethnic Armenians from villages positioned near areas of intense conflict. Concurrently, Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, has proclaimed his nation’s sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh following a day-long military assault against ethnic-Armenian forces. This triumphant assertion arrives on the heels of the Azerbaijani army’s victorious drive that culminated in the capitulation of Karabakh forces.

Aliyev lauds the bravery and combat prowess of his armed forces, even as plans to establish full Azerbaijani authority in the contested region proceed. The region, an embattled enclave in the South Caucasus with a population of 120,000 ethnic Armenians, is internationally acknowledged as part of Azerbaijan.

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Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani military initiated an “anti-terror” operation, demanding the dissolution of Karabakh’s unrecognized regime and the hoisting of a white flag as a sign of surrender. Enduring a nine-month blockade and devoid of external support from Armenia, the ethnic Armenian group conceded swiftly.

Disparate reports on casualties have emerged. The initial figures provided by Armenian officials suggest 32 fatalities and another 200 injuries, identifying seven of the deceased as civilians. Another source, a separatist human rights official from Armenia, significantly raised the estimates of dead and wounded to 200 and over 400, respectively. However, such claims have not been independently verified.

Despite the ceasefire agreement, accusations of violations have surfaced. Armenian authorities reported that Azerbaijani troops resumed fire near Sotk, a town straddling the countries’ common border. Azerbaijan vehemently denies these claims.

On the domestic front, rising political unrest bristles in the streets of Yerevan, Armenia’s capital. Thousands of protestors call for the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, scorning his management of the ongoing crisis.

The successful military campaign conducted by Azerbaijan’s armed forces saw the capture of over 90 positions from the ethnic Armenian group before an absolute pause in hostilities was jointly confirmed. This happened under the supervision of Russian peacekeepers, who facilitate the implementation of agreed-upon truce terms between Azerbaijan and Russia. These preconditions mandate the full disarmament and disbandment of local Karabakh forces, accompanied simultaneously by the withdrawal of Armenian forces. Despite the assertions made to this end, Armenia continues to renounce any military involvement in the region.

High-ranking officials from Azerbaijan and Armenian representatives from Karabakh have convened in Yevlakh, initiating talks specifically focused on rehabilitating the ruptured societal integration. President Aliyev emphasises that the Azerbaijani people harbour no animosity toward the ethnic Armenian communities but that the issues lie with the “criminal junta.”

Amid the conflict, impacted civilians have taken shelter in Yerevan. The ceasefire announcement brought a plea to citizens to remain secure inside these improvised shelters, avoiding an exodus toward the local airport, now occupying a location close to the Russian base. The situation remains fluid and cloaked in uncertainty, as it’s unknown what continued support they can expect.

The ceasefire terms and looming negotiations heavily lean to Azerbaijan’s advantage, leading to concerns over the protection of the ethnic Armenians inhabiting the region. This socio-political scenario potentially signals the end of their century-old struggle for secession from Azerbaijan.

The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh has persisted since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, instigating two wars and incurring significant casualties. The six-week war in 2020 alone culminated in territorial gains by Azerbaijan and left the ethnic Armenians in Karabakh isolated and distressed. In the past nine months, ethnic Armenians have had to endure an effective blockade cutting off life-essential supplies. Azerbaijan’s latest offensive, following this prolonged period of deprivation, has left the Karabakh Armenians severely weakened with little hope of outside assistance. The crisis is far from resolution, despite the ceasefire and ongoing negotiations.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.