Wednesday, April 24, 2024
Wednesday, April 24, 2024
Home » Nagorno-Karabakh under total blockade

After Azerbaijan imposed a blockade on Nagorno-Karabakh on December 12, vehicles of Russian peacekeepers and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were still able to access the region to bring in limited supplies and transport people needing special medical attention. 

But since June 15, Baku has been denying access to all humanitarian convoys, leaving the Armenian population of roughly 120,000 to rely entirely on their own resources.

The total blockade immediately followed a shootout near the newly installed Azerbaijani border post on the road in the Lachin corridor, which connects Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. 

The Armenian government released a video of the incident that purported to show Azerbaijani border troops escorted by Russian peacekeepers advancing from the checkpoint towards Armenia over the Hakari bridge and hoisting an Azerbaijani flag at the opposite end of the bridge. The group then comes under fire from the Armenian side and retreats. 

Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) reported that its border guards stopped the Azerbaijani soldiers from advancing into Armenian territory in an attempt to plant an Azerbaijani flag there. 

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry responded that their servicemen did not cross into Armenian territory, and the shooting was a “military provocation” attempting to prevent the “successful functioning” of the checkpoint; it added that one Azerbaijani soldier was wounded in the incident. 

The conflicting claims are unsurprising as the border between the two countries is undelimited and undemarcated

Following the incident, Azerbaijan suspended all movement along the Lachin corridor “until Armenia takes full responsibility for the provocation it committed.”

Nagorno-Karabakh’s de facto state minister, Gurgen Nersisyan, urged the population to live frugally and cut back on consumption. “Our farms will suffice for the population’s basic needs, though at the lowest levels,” he said.

The total blockade came just as Karabakh Armenians had started using the Azerbaijani checkpoint to travel in and out of the region with Russian peacekeeper escort. The checkpoint’s installation in late April followed a four-and-a-half-month blockade staged by Azerbaijani government-backed activists.

Eteri Musayelyan, the ICRC spokeswoman in Karabakh, confirmed to RFE/RL that the Red Cross has been unable to evacuate Karabakhis to Armenia for urgent medical care. She said vehicles carrying 25 patients were turned back after the incident.

Besides food and medicine shortages, the region has had no natural gas supply since March 22, and electricity blackouts become more frequent as the local key reservoir dries up in summer.

“External supplies of food and other essential goods into Nagorno Karabakh are suspended, there is a significant shortage of medication. There’s even no chance to transport critically-ill patients in such conditions. Everything is being done to make the lives of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh impossible. This is what a policy of ethnic cleansing looks like,” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on June 22.

As Russian peacekeepers were seen in the video on June 15 escorting Azerbaijani servicemen, the Armenian Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian ambassador in Yerevan to express “strong discontent” with the peacekeepers’ action.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova responded on June 22 that the peacekeepers were doing a good job of stabilizing the situation and blamed the incident on the lack of a delimited border. 

Russia periodically oversees peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan. These talks are not coordinated with the EU and U.S., which also mediate between the parties on a separate track. 

In her remarks, Zakharova called on Baku to “take steps to completely unblock the [Lachin] corridor for humanitarian purposes and not to hold Karabakh’s population hostage to political disagreements with Yerevan.”

Speaking during a visit to Armenia and the Armenia-Karabakh border, chair of the Security and Defense Subcommittee of the European Parliament Nathalie Loiseau, voiced the same sentiment. “Blocking the Lachin Corridor is illegal and must be stopped,” she said

Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry responded to PM Pashinyan’s accusations on June 22, restating Baku’s intention to do everything to “integrate” the Karabakh Armenians into Azerbaijan’s “political, legal and socioeconomic frameworks.”

Source: eurasianet

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