YEREVAN, Armenia — An ethnic Armenian exodus has almost emptied Nagorno-Karabakh of residents since Azerbaijan attacked and ordered the breakaway area’s militants to disarm, the Armenian authorities stated Saturday.
Nazeli Baghdasaryan, the press secretary to Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, stated 100,417 folks had arrived in Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh, which had a inhabitants of round 120,000 earlier than Azerbaijan reclaimed the area in a lightning offensive final week.
A complete of 21,043 automobiles had crossed the Hakari Bridge, which hyperlinks Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh, since final week, Baghdasaryan stated. Some lined up for days as a result of the winding mountain street that’s the solely path to Armenia grew to become jammed.
The departure of greater than 80% of Nagorno-Karabakh’s inhabitants raises questions on Azerbaijan’s plans for the enclave that was internationally acknowledged as a part of its territory. The area’s separatist ethnic Armenian authorities stated Thursday it might dissolve itself by the top of the 12 months after a three-decade bid for independence.
Pashinyan has alleged the ethnic Armenian exodus amounted to “a direct act of an ethnic cleaning and depriving folks of their motherland.” Azerbaijan’s International Ministry strongly rejected the characterization, saying the mass migration by the area’s residents was “their private and particular person resolution and has nothing to do with compelled relocation.”
In a associated improvement, Azerbaijani authorities on Friday arrested the previous international minister of Nagorno-Karabakh’s separatist authorities, presidential advisor David Babayan, Azerbaijan’s Prosecutor Normal’s Workplace stated Saturday.
PHOTOS: Virtually all of Nagorno-Karabakh’s folks have left, Armenia’s authorities says
Babayan’s arrest follows the Azerbaijani border guard’s detention of the previous head of Nagorno-Karabakh’s separatist authorities, State Minister Ruben Vardanyan, as he tried to cross into Armenia on Wednesday.
The arrests seem to mirror Azerbaijan’s intention to rapidly implement its grip on the area after the army offensive.
Throughout three many years of battle within the area, Azerbaijan and the separatists backed by Armenia have accused one another of focused assaults, massacres and different atrocities, leaving folks on either side deeply suspicious and fearful.
Whereas Azerbaijan has pledged to respect the rights of ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, most are fleeing as a result of they don’t belief Azerbaijani authorities to deal with them humanely or to ensure them their language, faith and tradition.
After six years of separatist combating led to 1994 following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Nagorno-Karabakh got here below the management of ethnic Armenian forces, backed by Armenia. Then, throughout a six-week conflict in 2020, Azerbaijan took again elements of the area within the south Caucasus Mountains together with surrounding territory that Armenian forces had claimed earlier.
In December, Azerbaijan blocked the Lachin Hall, the one street connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, accusing the Armenian authorities or utilizing it for illicit weapons shipments to the area’s separatist forces.
Weakened by the blockade and with Armenia’s management distancing itself from the battle, ethnic Armenian forces within the area agreed to put down arms lower than 24 hours after Azerbaijan started its offensive. Talks have begun between officers within the Azerbaijani capital of Baku and Nagorno-Karabakh’s separatist authorities on “reintegrating” the area into Azerbaijan.
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