Thousands Of Armenians Rush To Airport, Fearing Genocide, As Ceasefire Announced In Nagorno-Karabakh
After an intense full day of fighting between Azerbaijan forces and ethnic Armenian separatists in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, an agreement for full ceasefire has been reached.
Nagorno-Karabakh officials said it lost at least 32 civilians and soldiers following a Tuesday of intense gunfire, artillery, and strikes on civilian neighborhoods, particularly focused on the breakaway region’s chief city of Stepanakert. At least 200 have been wounded.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Armenia was not involved in reaching the ceasefire agreement, which is expected to be implemented with the coordination of Russian peacekeeping forces.
He emphasized in a statement, “we have numerously said that Armenia doesn’t have an army in Nagorno-Karabakh since August 2021.” He further confirmed, “the intensity of the fighting has greatly decreased” in Nagorno-Karabakh.
One war correspondent from Armenpress news agency described, “People are still hesitating to leave their shelters. Only a few people have come out for some fresh air, so to say.”
Ethnic Armenian civilians fled during the daylong fighting to the Russian peacekeepers’ main base, with Russia’s defense ministry confirming that in total 2,261 civilians, of whom 1,049 are children, took refuge at the base.
Stunning images of a sea of people gathered at the region’s airport were widely circulated…
⚡️Thousands of Armenian refugees near Stepanakert airport, awaiting evacuation from Karabakh after the capitulation of local authorities. pic.twitter.com/A8GdCETqXl
— War Monitor (@WarMonitors) September 20, 2023
The Wall Street Journal is pointing out that such a brief attempt of the Armenian separatists to throw off the blockade and occupation of the surrounding Azeri forces marks a catastrophic setback and defeat, after already ceding territory at the conclusion of the 2020 war:
Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh agreed Wednesday to disarm and discuss reintegration with Azerbaijan following a swift but deadly assault by Azeri forces, a capitulation that signals the end of decades of ethnic-Armenian rule in the enclave and the rapid decline of Russian influence in the former Soviet Union territories.
The terms of the cease-fire lay groundwork that could bring to a close the autonomous rule by the population of Nagorno-Karabakh, which was won from Baku in a bloody yearslong war after the fall of the Soviet empire.
#Russian peacekeepers are evacuating residents of nearby #Askeran villages to the territory of #Stepanakert airport in Ivanyan settlement, where the headquarters of the Russian peacekeeping forces is located.#SaveArtsakh pic.twitter.com/unKFpI3G0m
— Alphanews Armenian Network (@AlphaNewsAM) September 20, 2023
The report continues, “The speed at which the Armenian separatists agreed to abandon their armed struggle underscores Moscow’s waning power over events in the region as its forces are stretched in Ukraine.”
“The Kremlin has used the frozen conflict—one of dozens that dotted the post-Soviet landscape—as a lever to maintain sway over both Armenia and Azerbaijan,” the WSJ adds. “Over the years, Moscow has sent both weapons and peacekeepers to the region while using diplomacy to retain its position as ultimate arbiter over the region’s geopolitics.”
The terms of the ceasefire are a devastating loss for the separatist forces…
BREAKING — Complete capitulation of Armenian separatist forces in Nagorno-Karabakh, as they agreed to disband their forces, and remove heavy equipment from the region
Read the details below https://t.co/deBoY60D9Y
— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) September 20, 2023
Azerbaijan’s defense ministry had on Tuesday confirmed it was in the midst of what it dubbed an “anti-terrorist” campaign in the enclave that has about 120,000 ethnic Armenians.
Separatist officials are urging the population not to rush to the airport, amid fears of that an Azeri retaliation campaign and ethnic cleansing could ensue:
Thousands of ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh have massed at the airport where some Russian peacekeepers are based after separatist forces agreed to a ceasefire which would see them surrender to Azerbaijan.
Separatists running the self-styled “Republic of Artsakh” urged the population of 120,000 not to rush to the airport in the capital which they call Stepanakert.
“We once again urge the population of Stepanakert not to succumb to panic and not to go to the airport on their own initiative in order to evacuate,” the separatists said.
Baku’s defense military had announced the following ultimatum:
“To stop anti-terrorist measures, illegal Armenian armed groups must raise the white flag, surrender all weapons, and the illegal regime must dissolve itself. Otherwise, anti-terrorist measures will be continued until the end.”
Heavy fighting continues in Artsakh along the entire line of contact. Baku has… pic.twitter.com/1HiUiDOfLz
— 🔥🗞The Informant (@theinformantofc) September 20, 2023
Azerbaijan has stood accused of seeking to conduct a slow genocide of ethnic Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabakh region by cutting off food, medicine, and humanitarian aid.
Tuesday is being widely seen as a defeat for the Artsakh Republic…
Azerbaijani soldiers are lowering the Armenian and separatist Armenian flags in the military area they have taken from Armenians. pic.twitter.com/TizJUD2vXL
— EHA News (@eha_news) September 20, 2023
One regional journalist, Paul Antonopoulos, has written that “After starving Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh for 9 months, Azerbaijan launched another vicious attack to terrorize the indigenous population.”
Wed, 09/20/2023 – 15:45