At least twenty people were killed and nearly 300 injured last night in an explosion at a gas station in the unrecognized region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The area was very crowded at the time of the outbreak, with thousands of ethnic Armenians trying to flee the region towards Armenia, following the military offensive carried out last week by Azerbaijan. The authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh, an autonomous region not recognized by any country and located within the borders of Azerbaijan, declared that the explosion occurred on the highway that crosses Stepanakert, the capital of Karabakh, with Armenia. At the moment the reason for the explosion is unknown. At the scene, 13 bodies were found that have not yet been identified, while another seven people died in the hospital. “The health status of the majority is serious or extremely serious. Nagorno-Karabakh’s medical capabilities are not enough“said the authorities of the enclave in a statement, who have been asking for international humanitarian aid for days.
Since last Sunday, hundreds of people have been queuing at gas stations on this road, hoping to fill their tanks to get to neighboring Armenia. Following the success of the Azerbaijani military offensive in the region, Baku has reiterated that it will treat the ethnic Armenian inhabitants of Karabakh as Azerbaijani citizens. However, Thousands of families in this region of 120,000 inhabitants fear reprisals from the Azerbaijani Army and they prefer to flee to Armenia. Since last Sunday, at least 13,350 people from Karabakh have entered Armenia, according to the country’s authorities. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian announced that his country of 2.9 million inhabitants is prepared to welcome 40,000 refugees, although he has not given logistical details of how the reception will be carried out. In his last intervention, Pashinian assured that Ethnic cleansing in Karabakh is already “underway”. “It’s happening right now. It’s very unfortunate because we were trying to urge the international community about it,” she said. Both Armenia and the Karabakh authorities have asked the United Nations to deploy its units to the region to prevent hostilities against the ethnic Armenian population. At the moment, UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric noted that they are preparing to provide humanitarian assistance. “If we are granted access, we will be prepared to conduct a humanitarian needs assessment and provide assistance to affected people,” he told reporters.
Concern has increased in Karabakh becausee Azerbaijan has only delivered 70 tons of food since the Karabakh authorities accepted the ceasefire on Wednesday and agreed to disarmament. The humanitarian aid needed is much greater, given that for the last ten months this region of 120,000 inhabitants has been subject to a blockade by Azerbaijan, which cut the only road that connects it with Armenia, depriving it of food, medicine and fuel for almost a anus.
Azerbaijan’s military offensive barely lasted 24 hours although it caused the death of 200 people and more than 400 wounded, according to Karabakh authorities. Also five Russian peacekeepers died due to an attack by Azerbaijan. Russia had deployed peacekeepers to the region to ensure the cessation of hostilities following the war between Azerbaijan and Karabakh Armenian forces in 2020. Pashinian has accused Russia of failing to prevent Azerbaijan’s military offensive, while Moscow claims that He had no legal grounds to intervene. “We are categorically against attempts to shift the blame to the Russian side, especially the Russian peacekeepers, who have shown true heroism,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
This Tuesday, high-level representatives of Armenia and Azerbaijan will meet in Brussels, sponsored by the European Union, in an attempt to join forces to promote stability in the region and advance a possible rapprochement between both governments.