Azerbaijani Troops Close in on Armenian Separatist Stronghold, Residents Hide in Fear
Stepanakert, the Armenian separatist stronghold in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, is on the brink of being taken over by Azerbaijani troops. This development has prompted the residents of the predominantly Armenian region to seek refuge in basements out of fear, according to representatives of the Armenian separatists.
The Azerbaijani military launched a violent attack on Armenian separatist positions just three days ago, under the guise of an “anti-terrorist operation”. They demanded that the separatists lay down their weapons and dissolve their government. The Nagorno-Karabakh authorities agreed to the military demands a day later, but discussions on how to reintegrate the region into Azerbaijan are still ongoing.
Armian Hellapetian, a spokesperson for the separatist government information center in Yerevan, expressed grave concern about the situation in Stepanakert. He stated that Azerbaijani troops are spreading throughout the city, even appearing in the suburbs, causing the residents to fear for their lives. Hellapetian added, “At any moment, they could enter the city and start killing.”
The dire situation in Stepanakert has left the city without basic services such as electricity, gas, food, fuel, internet, and phone connections. The residents are left with no choice but to hide in basements for their safety.
The conflict has allegedly taken the lives of 200 people, with the separatists suffering heavy casualties. Exact figures were not provided.
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan announced that it is providing food and other humanitarian aid to 120,000 people in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The Azerbaijani Ministry of Emergency Situations dispatched two trucks carrying food and hygiene supplies. This aid is crucial as supplies to the region from Armenia have been disrupted.
Armenia’s Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, assured the Armenian citizens in the region that there is no immediate need for them to leave their homes. However, Armenia is prepared to receive up to 40,000 evacuees if the situation worsens.
Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister, Beyramov, emphasized that his country is determined to protect the rights and freedoms of the Nagorno-Karabakh residents, adhering to the national constitution and international human rights obligations, including for ethnic minorities.
In response to the ongoing crisis, anti-government demonstrations have erupted in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, for the third consecutive day. Protesters are critical of Prime Minister Pashinyan’s handling of the Nagorno-Karabakh situation, accusing him of making too many concessions to Azerbaijan. They demand his resignation. Some protesters have barricaded the streets, intending to disrupt the Cabinet meeting scheduled for later in the day. Armenian police have arrested opposition politician Andranik Tevanyan, one of the protest organizers.
Pashinyan has vowed to take firm but legal actions against the protesters. In a televised address, he urged calm and adherence to the law during this emotionally charged and difficult moment.
The Nagorno-Karabakh region has been under Armenian separatist control since a war erupted in the 1990s between Armenia and Azerbaijan. However, in 2020, Azerbaijan launched a six-week war that ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement. As a result, Armenia had to relinquish significant territories it had controlled for nearly three decades. The agreement has been seen as a national disgrace in Armenia, with opposition parties blaming Pashinyan for mishandling the war.
The situation remains tense as Azerbaijani troops continue their advance towards Stepanakert, and negotiations between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh proceed.