With nutrient shortages and blackouts, rumors of revenge-taking abound — and are flatly denied by the Azerbaijani authorities.
Sept. 23, 2023, 5:01 a.m. ET
Along the serpentine road linking Armenia with Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway Armenian enclave, Norik Grigoryan strained to drawback a glimpse of his colony conscionable a fewer miles away. His woman and lad are stuck there, helium said, aft Azerbaijan reclaimed the portion this week successful a swift subject operation.
But the transition was blocked, and communications were intermittent astatine best.
“We’ve been waiting for 3 days,” said Mr. Grigoryan, 55, lasting with a radical of sullen men, besides anxiously waiting to articulation relatives and friends.
“Yesterday, I was lasting here, my unit went high, I astir died,” helium said. “Vodka saved me.”
Two days aft the Azerbaijani subject brushed speech Russian peacekeepers and routed a vastly outgunned radical of fighters defending the Armenians successful the enclave, concerns mounted astir the tens of thousands of Armenians who were present stranded determination nether their caller Azerbaijani rulers.
On Friday, radical successful Armenia were frantically trying to scope their relatives and friends connected the different broadside of the border, calling them implicit and implicit again but receiving small oregon nary response.
Artak Beglaryan, a erstwhile high-ranking authoritative successful the pro-Armenian government, described a dire humanitarian situation, with antithetic parts of the portion chopped disconnected from 1 different and the Azerbaijani subject blockading interior roads. Electricity proviso has been erratic, helium said, making it intolerable for galore residents to complaint their phones.
“Another urgent occupation is hunger; determination is simply a superior shortage of food,” helium said, adding that thousands of radical had been displaced and relocated successful assorted communities and Russian peacekeepers’ bases. Russia has acknowledged taking thousands of radical into its bases.
The Armenian authorities has stated firmly that it volition not intervene. Nor is assistance forthcoming from the planetary assemblage oregon from Armenia’s accepted protector, Russia, with its 1,960 peacekeeping troops stationed successful Nagorno-Karabakh.
“No 1 understands what volition hap next,” said Artur Marudian, 35, who had been trying to scope his relatives for hours. “No 1 trusts Aliyev,” helium said, referring to President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan.
In the lack of hard information, rumors abounded among the Armenian population, astir reflecting humanities grievances and claims of mistreatment by the Azerbaijani authorities since they won effectual power of the portion successful a 2020 war. Prisons were being built for the Armenians who took portion successful the caller fighting, radical said, and lists were being compiled of radical to arrest.
The Azerbaijani authorities has tried to calm the fears, promising to admit the rights, information and state of Armenians successful the region.
Hikmet Hajiyev, Mr. Aliyev’s adjunct connected planetary affairs, said that the Azerbaijani equipped forces had received strict orders to beryllium respectful of the Armenians. In a telephone interview, helium called allegations that Azerbaijan was readying to unfastened prisons for Armenians and prosecute them en masse “obviously ridiculous and unacceptable.”
He noted, however, that portion astir combatants were escaped to spell if they enactment down their guns, the Azerbaijani authorities would inactive privation to bring to justness Armenians who “used inhuman treatment, elements of warfare crimes and crimes against humanity against civilians.”
Mr. Hajiyev besides denied accusations that Azerbaijan was preventing Armenians from fleeing the region.“ If idiosyncratic decided to spell to Armenia, I deliberation they tin bash it,” Mr. Hajiyev said.
The fears are lodged successful a agelong and hard past betwixt the predominantly Orthodox Christian Armenians and the Muslim Azerbaijanis. While Nagorno-Karabakh lies wrong Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized borders, the 2 nations person been intertwined for centuries, with Armenian and Azerbaijani villages scattered astir the region.
After the Soviet illness successful 1991, Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence, and the 2 sides fought a long, bloody war. When the Armenians triumphed, they drove the Azerbaijanis retired of the territory, taking up residence successful galore cases successful their vacated homes. Many Armenians besides had to flee. Now, Armenians fearfulness that the Azerbaijanis volition instrumentality the treatment, arsenic they already person successful a fewer towns and villages reclaimed since the 2020 war.
“A existent Armenian could ne'er unrecorded with the Azerbaijanis,” said Vachik Karapetyan, 33, sitting connected the broadside of the road to Nagorno-Karabakh. “Can you unrecorded successful a spot wherever you tin get killed astatine immoderate moment?” helium asked, adding that helium would effort to interruption done if Azerbaijanis didn’t fto Armenians out. “It did hap before,” helium said.
But the Azerbaijani checkpoint remained closed. Only convoys of Russian peacekeepers were fto through, rushing past the waiting Armenians. And successful Goris, the nearest Armenian town, thing suggested preparations to person thousands of refugees.
Speaking from Stepanakert, the superior of Nagorno-Karabakh, Mr. Beglaryan, the erstwhile authoritative of the pro-Armenian government, said that “there is precocious demand” among radical to permission the region.
“There’s been nary advancement successful that regard,” helium said. “Actually, successful nary different regards has determination been advancement yet.”
Mr. Hajiyev, the Azerbaijani official, said that humanitarian assistance was astir to beryllium delivered. On Saturday morning, Mr. Beglaryan said that Russian peacekeepers had brought successful respective trucks’ worthy of aid, and that 2 trucks from Azerbaijan had arrived, arsenic well.
Like different Armenians, Mr. Beglaryan pleaded for the planetary assemblage to intervene. But the high-stakes warfare successful Ukraine has pushed Nagorno-Karabakh further into the periphery of interests for Moscow, Brussels and Washington.
In years past, Armenia’s involvement successful the quality has been guarded by Russia, arsenic was the lawsuit successful 2020 erstwhile it sent peacekeeping troops to support the Armenian colonisation successful Nagorno-Karabakh. But with its captious commercialized links with 2 different Muslim nations, Iran and Turkey, the Kremlin has not wanted to antagonize Azerbaijan, analysts said.
For galore Armenians, Moscow’s reluctance to measurement successful much assertively to support their countrymen was a betrayal. But adjacent the European Union was reluctant to enactment against Azerbaijan, having signed a woody past twelvemonth to treble state deliveries from the state to Europe by 2027.
Questions of geopolitics were acold from the minds of the Armenians lasting connected the highway, anxious to spot their relatives.
“My full household is determination — parent father, sister,” said Grigory Zakharyan, incapable to clasp backmost tears. He said his 2 brothers had died during the Azerbaijani onslaught this week and that helium could not scope his relatives successful the distant Martuni region, which is chopped disconnected from the determination capital, Stepanakert.
“I look astatine this roadworthy and I consciousness similar a occurrence has to happen,” said Mr. Zakharyan, 44. “If I had wings, I would alert there.”