Azerbaijan conducted a swift military operation this week to gain full control over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. However, this move might lead to a mass exodus of ethnic Armenians living in the area. According to Reuters, as many as 120,000 Karabakh Armenians may flee their homes because they do not want to live under Baku’s rule and fear ethnic cleansing.
David Babayan, an adviser to the president of the self-styled Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, expressed the sentiment of the people, stating, “Our people do not want to live as part of Azerbaijan. Ninety-nine point nine percent prefer to leave our historic lands.” Babayan also criticized the lack of international reaction to Azerbaijan’s actions, calling it a disgrace and a shame for the Armenian people and the civilized world.
To address the concerns of those fleeing the disputed region, Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan announced that his nation is ready to take in all those seeking refuge. As of Sunday night, a total of 377 people have already arrived in Armenia, according to Armenian authorities.
In the midst of the conflict, thousands of Karabakh Armenians were evacuated from local villages and taken to a Russian peacekeepers’ camp. These individuals will be escorted to Armenia by the peacekeeping forces if they want to leave the region. The Russian Defense Ministry reported on Sunday that their peacekeepers had already evacuated 311 civilians, including 102 children, to Armenia. Since September 20, no outbreaks of violence have been recorded, and the local Armenian militias have been surrendering their weapons under the control of the peacekeepers. So far, 130,000 munitions, 1,200 small arms, anti-tank weapons, and portable air-defense systems have been surrendered.
The Russian peacekeeping force has also provided much-needed aid to the disputed region. The Ministry of Defense announced that they have delivered 125 tons of food and 65 tons of fuel.
The history of Nagorno-Karabakh dates back to the dissolution of the USSR, when it split from Azerbaijan. In the 1990s, a bloody war for independence occurred, with the predominantly ethnic Armenian population fighting for autonomy. Following a flare-up in 2020, the Russian peacekeepers were deployed in the region. This flare-up concluded with Azerbaijan reclaiming a large portion of the territory it had previously lost. Last year, Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, formally acknowledged Baku’s sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh after decades of tacit support for the self-proclaimed authorities of the region.
The recent escalation in the region began on Tuesday, with Azerbaijan citing an alleged Armenian military buildup as the reason for its “counter-terrorism measures of a local nature.” However, Yerevan denied these allegations. On Wednesday, Nagorno-Karabakh authorities announced a ceasefire with Azerbaijan, following a proposal by the Russian peacekeeping forces.
The situation in Nagorno-Karabakh remains tense, with the possibility of a mass exodus of ethnic Armenians and ongoing efforts by Russian peacekeepers to maintain stability in the region. The international community continues to monitor the situation, hoping for a peaceful resolution for all parties involved.