Azerbaijan sends food supplies to Nagorno-Karabakh after warning of humanitarian disaster

Azerbaijan has sent food supplies to the Nagorno-Karabakh region after warning of a humanitarian disaster.

The aid comes two days after the region's ethnic Armenian separatist government declared a ceasefire in the latest round of fighting with Azerbaijani forces.

The territory, internationally recognized as Azerbaijan, has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces since 1994. Nagorno-Karabakh's 120,000 residents suffered shortages late last year when a blockade was set up on the road between the region and Armenia.

Azerbaijan's Emergencies Ministry said that two 20-ton trucks carrying food and hygiene products and two trucks carrying bread were sent to Nagorno-Karabakh on the road from Aghdam, which lies east of the region, on Friday.

(EPA)

Azerbaijan launched heavy shelling on Armenian positions on Tuesday as part of a so-called “anti-terror operation” and demanded that Armenians lay down their weapons and dissolve the separatist government. A day later, Nagorno-Karabakh authorities agreed to military demands, but talks on reintegrating the region into Azerbaijan failed to reach a final agreement.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan told a government meeting on Friday that there was no immediate need for the region's ethnic Armenians to leave their homes, but said Armenia was ready to accept up to 40,000 evacuees if necessary.

Russian peacekeepers have left the Nagorno-Karabakh region through an Armenian checkpoint near Kornidzor

(REUTERS)

On Friday afternoon, Russian peacekeepers were seen leaving the region and entering Armenia.

An outburst of anti-Russian sentiment in Armenia, traditionally one of Russia's closest allies, has made the situation more difficult for Moscow, whose resources and attention are strained by the war in Ukraine. Protesters who say they feel betrayed by Russia's failure to stop Azerbaijan have gathered outside the Russian embassy in Yerevan, the Armenian capital, chanting anti-Russian slogans.

The Russian Foreign Ministry called for an “immediate end to the bloodshed.”

Protesters gathered in the Armenian capital Yerevan for a third day on Thursday, calling on authorities to defend Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.

(AFP via Getty Images)

Residents of the capital Karabakh reported The Independent that shells and gunshots echoed through the suburbs on Thursday morning. They added that a “humanitarian catastrophe” was unfolding as electricity was completely out, food was scarce and thousands of displaced civilians were hiding in shelters.

Hundreds are believed to have been killed in Karabakh in recent days. More than 100,000 ethnic Armenian civilians must now choose between exile from their historic homeland or integration into a state that many of them view as a hostile state, despite Azerbaijan's assurances.

In Stepanakert, the region's capital, 21-year-old Hayk Harutunyan said: “The majority of the population wants to be evacuated to Armenia. We cannot live with Azerbaijan.”

He told that Associated Press by telephone: “Over the last 30 years, thousands of Armenians, our brothers and sisters, have been killed. Azerbaijan's goal is the destruction of the Armenian nation; How can we live with those who want to kill us?”

Residents want to evacuate to Armenia after reports of shots fired in Stepanakert

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Since the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, both sides have been engaged in a bloody battle over the mountainous region, which Armenians also call Artsakh. It is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan – which is backed by Turkey – but is home to 120,000 ethnic Armenians who have enjoyed de facto independence.

A six-week war broke out in 2020, leaving 6,700 people dead and leading to Azerbaijan retaking about a third of the region. Russia, historically a close ally of Armenia and which has long seen itself as a security guarantor in the South Caucasus, brokered a ceasefire and sent 2,000 peacekeepers.

This was broken on Tuesday by the Azerbaijani army, which unleashed a new wave of artillery and drone attacks against the outnumbered and under-resourced pro-Armenian forces, raising fears that an all-out war could break out.