Nagorno-Karabakh's Armenians depart to Armenia after Azerbaijan's victoryover the separatist forces in a conflict that has its roots in the Soviet era. Leadership in Nagorno-Karabakh told reporters that the region's Armenian population, numbering around 120,000, was unwilling to remain part of Azerbaijan due to concerns of potential persecution and ethnic cleansing.
Individuals who possessed fuel resources had already begun traveling through the Lachin corridor in the direction of Armenia. According to an official statement from the Armenian government, by 10 p.m. (1800 GMT) on Sunday, a total of 1,050 individuals had crossed into Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh.
The people of Karabakh, Armenians residing in a region internationally acknowledged as part of Azerbaijan but previously under their control, were compelled to observe a ceasefire last week following a 24-hour military offensive launched by the significantly larger Azerbaijani military.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have engaged in two armed conflicts over the enclave in the past three decades. In a six-week conflict in 2020, Azerbaijan managed to reclaim significant portions of territory both within and around Nagorno-Karabakh.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who provided military support to Azerbaijan during the 2020 conflict, was scheduled to meet with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev on Monday in Nakhchivan. Nakhchivan is a narrow strip of Azerbaijani land situated between Armenia, Iran, and Turkey.
Last week, Erdogan stated that he endorsed the objectives of Azerbaijan's most recent military campaign but emphasized that he had no direct involvement in it. Armenians remain skeptical of Azerbaijan's commitment to safeguarding their rights as the region undergoes integration, and thus they are not accepting Azerbaijan's promises in this regard.
"Ninety-nine point nine percent prefer to leave our historic lands," David Babayan, an adviser to Samvel Shahramanyan, president of the self-styled Republic of Artsakh, told reporters.
The fate of our poor people will go down in history as a disgrace and a shame for the Armenian people and for the whole civilized world. Those responsible for our fate will one day have to answer before God for their sins.- David Babayan
Armenian authorities in Karabakh announced that individuals displaced by the Azerbaijani military operation who wish to depart will be accompanied to Armenia by Russian peacekeepers.
Journalists in proximity to the village of Kornidzor along the Armenian border observed several heavily burdened vehicles crossing into Armenia. By Sunday evening, Armenia reported that 377 refugees had arrived.
Armenian residents drive their cars as they leave the city of Stepanakert
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has come under pressure to step down due to his perceived failure to protect Karabakh. During a national address, he acknowledged that while some assistance had arrived, a large-scale exodus seemed unavoidable.
If proper conditions are not created for the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh to live in their homes and there are no effective protection mechanisms against ethnic cleansing, the likelihood is rising that the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh will see exile from their homeland as the only way to save their lives and identity.- Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan
The current situation has the potential to disrupt the delicate balance of power in the South Caucasus region, characterized by a mosaic of ethnic groups intertwined with crucial oil and gas pipelines. In this region, Russia, the United States, Turkey, and Iran compete for influence.
Last week's triumph by Azerbaijan seems to bring an end to one of the long-standing "frozen conflicts" stemming from the dissolution of the Soviet Union. President Aliyev asserted that his firm stance had relegated the notion of an independent ethnic Armenian Karabakh to the annals of history and pledged to transform the region into a "paradise."
Armenia has reported more than 200 fatalities and 400 injuries as a result of the Azerbaijani military operation.
US Senator Gary Peters, currently in Armenia as the head of a US Congressional Delegation, visited the Lachin corridor along with US Ambassador to Armenia Kristina Kvien and Armenia's Syunik province governor, Robert Ghukasyan.
I’ve talked to many people who are very concerned about their loved ones, families, and what has happened to them. They know they have been suffering as a result of the blockade over many months, shortages of food, medical supplies, basic gasoline, and petrol. It's a dire situation from what I have heard and I’m very concerned.- US Senator Gary Peters
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) vehicles transport humanitarian aid for residents of Nagorno-Karabakh
Nagorno-Karabakh occupies a region with a historical narrative influenced by various powers, including Persians, Turks, Russians, Ottomans, and Soviets. After the disintegration of the Russian Empire in 1917, both Azerbaijan and Armenia asserted claims over this territory. During the Soviet era, it was designated as an autonomous region within Azerbaijan.
As the Soviet Union unraveled, Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh threw off-nominal Azerbaijani authority and seized neighboring lands in what is now referred to as the First Karabakh War. This conflict, lasting from 1988 to 1994, resulted in approximately 30,000 casualties and the displacement of more than 1 million people, primarily Azerbaijanis.
In 2020, following decades of intermittent clashes, Azerbaijan achieved a decisive victory in the Second Karabakh War, lasting 44 days. This war concluded with a Russian-brokered peace agreement, which Armenians allege has not been effectively guaranteed by Moscow.
On Saturday, local Armenian authorities in the region reported the arrival of approximately 150 tonnes of humanitarian aid from Russia and an additional 65 tonnes of flour shipped by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Russia, with 2,000 peacekeepers deployed in the region, reported that as per the ceasefire terms, by Saturday, six armored vehicles, over 800 small arms, anti-tank weaponry, portable air defense systems, and approximately 22,000 rounds of ammunition had been surrendered.
Armenia has made arrangements to accommodate up to 40,000 people from Karabakh. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan, primarily a Muslim-majority country, has stated that the Christian Armenian population is free to leave if they so choose.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Pashinyan placed the blame on Russia for not providing sufficient assistance to Armenia. He also indicated that Armenia would reevaluate its alliance with Moscow.
"Some of our partners are increasingly making efforts to expose our security vulnerabilities, putting at risk not only our external but also internal, security and stability while violating all norms of etiquette and correctness in diplomatic and interstate relations, including obligations assumed under treaties," Pashinyan said in his Sunday address.
Russian officials believe that Pashinyan is at fault for how he handled the crisis.