Nagorno-Karabakh Crisis Deepens Divides in Armenia Toward Russia

Sept 28 2023

YEREVAN, Armenia – Tigran has been protesting outside the Russian embassy every day since Azerbaijan launched its offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh. 

On the embassy’s steps, flowers have been laid in memory of the peacekeepers who were killed by Azerbaijani shelling last week. 

"Are these bloody flowers for the occupiers?" reads the poster that Tigran, 19, holds up. When diplomats' cars leave the embassy, he and a small group of protesters shout "Shame!"

He is just one of the thousands of Armenians who have grown disillusioned with Russia — their country’s longtime ally and security guarantor — for failing to prevent Azerbaijani aggression.

Large-scale protests have been taking place in Yerevan since Sept. 19, when Azerbaijan announced a military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh despite the presence of Russian peacekeepers in the region.

Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian separatist leadership announced Thursday that it will dissolve, ending a bitter, three-decade fight for independence in the breakaway region, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.

Some protesters accuse Moscow, distracted by its war in Ukraine, of abandoning its commitments to Armenia.

"Until recently, my whole family was pro-Russia. But our opinion has changed," Tigran, who declined to share his last name, told The Moscow Times. "Armenia has always been loyal to Russia. We are the most pro-Russia country. But now we demand from the Russian military that they do their job or get out."

Samvel, a 21-year-old student at the Yerevan University of Theater and Cinema, organized a student strike of more than 100 people originally from Karabakh. 

For several days, alongside thousands of other protesters, he has demanded that the Armenian authorities save his family, who are caught in a humanitarian crisis. 

“Russia promised that it would protect Artsakh,” said Samvel, using the region’s Armenian name. “People believed it and stayed there. But the Russians did not fulfill their promise. They betrayed us! Russia has stabbed us in the back.”

“We won't forget it.”

Russian peacekeepers have been stationed in the region since the end of a 2020 war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the region that ended in an Armenian defeat.

This month, Armenia’s Foreign Ministry called on the peacekeepers to “take clear and unequivocal steps to stop Azerbaijan's aggression.”

But Moscow merely urged Baku and Yerevan to put “an end to the bloodshed… and a return to a peaceful settlement" as Russian peacekeepers largely stood aside.

Last week, Baku announced an end to its military operation after the Armenian separatist forces agreed to lay down their arms and hold reintegration talks.

And on Sunday, Karabakh’s 120,000 ethnic Armenians began embarking on a mass exodus from the region, fearing ethnic cleansing by incoming Azerbaijani forces. 

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said the day before that his country would welcome the arrival of those displaced from the territory, and by Thursday, more than 68,000 refugees had already arrived in Armenia.

Because the latest ceasefire agreement was brokered by Russian peacekeepers, some Armenians suspect that it was in fact a "deal" between Moscow and Baku. 

Soon after, the National Democratic Alliance, a pro-Western political movement, organized protests in Yerevan. Hundreds marched through the streets of the Armenian capital for several days in a row, holding torches and chanting "Russia is the enemy!"

Although Tigran said he believes the fall of Karabakh’s separatist government has undermined the confidence of many Armenians in Russia as an ally, he admitted that a significant part of society blames the loss on Pashinyan, who has moved away from Moscow in recent years. 

"I think Russia is still supported by about 40% of Armenian society," he said. 

"But I think many of them just haven't had time to be disappointed yet."


According to a May 2023 survey conducted by the Washington-based think tank International Republican Institute (IRI), 50% of Armenians described their country’s relationship with Russia as “good,” the lowest ever measured in an IRI poll in Armenia. 

Nevertheless, the majority of respondents indicated that Russia is still one of Armenia’s most important political, economic and security partners. 

And despite the widespread criticism toward the Russian peacekeepers, many Armenians still believe the situation in Karabakh could have been much worse without their presence.

Since the start of the crisis, the Russian Defense Ministry has published daily reports on its delivery of humanitarian aid and helped escort Karabakh Armenians. Videos published by the ministry show women thanking Russian soldiers.

The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic gained de facto independence from Azerbaijan in 1994, after more than two years of war that ended in Yerevan’s victory over Baku. 

A second bloody war over the region in the fall of 2020 saw Azerbaijan regain part of the territories it had lost in 1994 and ended in a Russia-brokered ceasefire.

In November 2022, as tensions with Azerbaijan escalated again, Yerevan was denied its request for military assistance by the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), drawing criticism from Pashinyan.

In a sign of the Armenian prime minister’s growing frustration with the Kremlin on the issue of Karabakh, Armenia and the United States earlier this month carried out joint military drills, which drew the ire of the Russian authorities. 

Armenia’s pro-Russian opposition laid the blame for the loss of Karabakh on the prime minister, accusing him of betraying the region’s ethnic Armenians “in favor of the interests of the West.” Mika Badalyan, a political activist who regularly appears on Russian television, called on Armenians to take to the streets and overthrow Pashinyan's government. 

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said Russian peacekeepers would help Karabakh Armenians in every way possible, while the U.S. and the EU, she argued, “treat Yerevan with destructive fanaticism, pushing Armenia to withdraw from the CSTO.”

"The fact that Pashinyan began to move away from such an ‘ally’ as Russia does not mean that we will begin to cooperate with the West. They don't expect us there either, to put it mildly. And this is understandable to many,” said Ani Sargsyan, an entrepreneur who raises humanitarian aid for refugees.

“But the fact is that it will no longer be possible to follow the same path with Russia and continue friendly relations. Relations have deteriorated not only because of Pashinyan. And here we must admit that it seems that we are moving away from Russia,” she added.

Arevik, a 24-year-old volunteer collecting humanitarian aid, said she was certain that the refugees would never return to Karabakh. 

“No one will live there. And the Russian troops will leave,” she said. “But I am afraid that [Azerbaijani President Ilham] Aliyev will not stop there. He once said that the whole of Armenia is just Western Azerbaijan.”

“We shouldn't expect someone to protect us. It was immediately clear that Russian troops would s*** themselves in Karabakh. And international organizations just don't care about us,” she added.

“Unfortunately, we are not Ukraine. It is unprofitable to protect us.”

70,000 Armenians, half of disputed enclave’s population, have now fled

ABC News
Sept 28 2023

Ethnic Armenians are pouring out of Nagorno-Karabakh since Azerbaijan takeover.

By Patrick Reevell

LONDON – At least 75,500 ethnic Armenian refugees have now fled Nagorno-Karabakh, in the last five days, which is more than half the disputed enclave's population, local authorities said Thursday, as the exodus from the region continues to accelerate.

It is feared the enclave's whole population will likely flee in the coming days, unwilling to remain under Azerbaijan's rule following its successful military offensive last week that defeated the ethnic Armenian separatist authorities and restored Azerbaijan's control after over three decades.

The leader of Nagorno-Karabakh's unrecognized Armenian state, the Republic of Artsakh, on Thursday announced its dissolution, signing a decree that it will "cease to exist" by Jan. 1, 2024.

De facto President Samvel Shahramanyan signed the decree declaring that "all state institutions" will be dissolved.

A statement describing the decree said based on the ceasefire agreement last week, Azerbaijan would allow the unhindered travel of all residents, including military personnel who laid down their arms. The local population should make their own decisions about the "possibility of staying (or returning)," the statement said.

The decree marks an end to Armenian control over the enclave, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan and has been at the center of one of the world's most intractable conflicts for 35 years.

Disputed Region for Armenia Refugees
ABC News Illustration

Ethnic Armenians have lived for centuries in Nagorno-Karabakh. The current conflict dates back to the collapse of the Soviet Union, when Armenian separatists declared the republic and tried to break away from Azerbaijan. Armenia and Azerbaijan waged a bloody war over the enclave that saw hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijani civilians driven from the region and ended with the ethnic Armenians in control of most of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijan reopened the conflict in 2020, defeating Armenia and forcing it to distance itself from the Karabakh Armenians. Russia brokered a peace agreement and deployed peacekeepers, who remain in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Last week, after blockading the enclave for nine months, Azerbaijan launched a new offensive that defeated the Karabakh Armenian forces in two days. Since Sunday, tens of thousands of ethnic Armenian civilians have left Nagorno-Karabakh after Azerbaijan opened the road out to Armenia.

Those leaving say they fear life under Azerbaijan will be intolerable and that they will face persecution.

Shortages of food, medicine and fuel have been reported inside the enclave. Those fleeing describe spending 30 hours in traffic jams to leave.

Siranush Sargsyan, a local freelance journalist living in Nagorno-Karabakh, told Reuters it was impossible for ethnic Armenians to remain.

"Of course I'm going to leave, because this place is too small for both of us. If they are here, we have to leave. We don't want to leave, but we don't have [any] other choice," she said.

Refugees sit on the back of a truck with loaded belongings near Kornidzor, Armenia on Sept. 28, 2023.
Alain Jocard/AFP via Getty Images

Azerbaijan charged a former leader of the Karabakh Armenians with terrorism offenses on Thursday after detaining him a day earlier when he tried to leave the enclave with other refugees.

Ruben Vardanyan, a billionaire who made his fortune in Moscow, moved to Nagorno-Karabakh in 2022 and served as the head of its government for several months before stepping down earlier this year. A court in Azerbaijan's capital Baku charged him on Thursday with financing terrorism and creating an illegal armed group, which carries a potential maximum 14-year sentence.

The United States and other Western countries have expressed concern for the ethnic Armenian population. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev this week and urged him to provide international access to the enclave.

‘Armenians free to stay’: Azeri envoy talks Nagorno-Karabakh – exclusive

Jerusalem Post
Sept 28 2023

Ten days after Azerbaijan’s 24-hour offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh, a prospective peace agreement promises to resolve a three-decades-long conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

According to Baku, Armenia had occupied the Nagorno-Karabakh region and deployed military forces there even after a 2020 ceasefire, which Azerbaijan perceived as a threat to its security. Now, however, tens of thousands of ethnic Armenians have reportedly fled Nagorno-Karabakh, citing concerns of potential ethnic cleansing, despite Baku’s assertions that they will be treated as equal citizens.

On September 26, senior advisers to Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met in Brussels to prepare for a potential meeting between the leaders in Spain on October 5.

Ahead of those talks, in exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post, Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Israel, Mukhtar Mammadov, discussed how Baku views the situation.

The Post reached out to local Armenian representatives as well, but did not receive a response by press time.

Ambassador Mammadov: We first need to understand how the situation got to this point and if there was an alternative – and we think there was.

After the [second Nagorno-Karabakh] war in 2020, Azerbaijan, for the second time, was the first to initiate a peace process, despite all the atrocities committed by Armenia against our people.

In the meantime, we were calling on the international community to discuss the situation’s fragility and the need for the international community to support this peace process and ensure that Armenia understood the value of it. We were optimistic, but there were problems on the ground.

The Armenians were smuggling weapons, placing land mines, and creating hysteria around what they called “a blockade of the Lachin road.” But almost every day, the ICRC  (International Committee of the Red Cross) was crossing, and people were crossing. [The Armenians], however, were using it for military purposes. And when we established a checkpoint – which every country has on their borders, Israel has checkpoints – they started this campaign against Azerbaijan, because they wanted to use the road for military purposes.

One of the severe triggers [of the recent escalation] was the land mines. Over 300 land mines exploded in Azerbaijani territory, and over 60 civilians, military and police were killed. Others were wounded, mostly on their hands or feet.

On 19 September, in the early morning, several mines exploded where people were crossing, and civilians and police died or were wounded.

As a result of our counter-terror operation, we discovered how much ammunition, weapons, tanks and explosives were stored in Karabakh, in houses, farms and civilian facilities.

The operation was less than 24 hours. Its purpose was to ensure that the 10,000 foreign troops on Azerbaijan soil, whom we hadn’t invited there, would leave. No country would accept a single uninvited foreign soldier. They were Armenian soldiers who stayed in the area after 2020, or that had been smuggled in since. Now, they are leaving. We opened the corridor for them to go back to Armenia. We have not persecuted them. Those who leave their arms are fine; they can return wherever they came from.

Azerbaijan now has complete control of the enclave after more than three decades. What will the policy be for the people living there now?

Starting the process of reintegration is a necessary process. We invited Armenian representatives to Baku to begin the process, but unfortunately, that invitation was declined.

Azerbaijan has always been a diverse country. We have many nationalities: Jewish, Russian, Georgia, Kurds and others, and they all have rights under the constitution. Ten ethnic groups learn their language at school. It was declared by the president last week that we see Armenians [who live in Karabkah] as our citizens.

There are lots of videos of people fleeing. Will they be able to leave their homes if they choose to? If not, what happens to the property?

The thing is, those you call fleeing, more of them are soldiers or military groups that have nothing to do with the region. We are open to talking to those Karabakh residents who have lived there forever and are not outsiders. They don’t have IDs and documents; Azerbaijan is not forcing anyone to leave its territory; we declared anyone who wants to stay is free to do so, and we won’t prosecute.

At the same time, video footage shows police and military helping injured and older adults. We have nothing against these people; they are leaving due to three decades of propaganda [against Azerbaijan].

Some people were born after the conflict and have not interacted with Azerbaijanis. The elders, many of them, speak the Azerbaijani language. But the youngsters were raised under this propaganda that we are evil. A lot has to be done to change it, and this is one of our focuses.

We lost 30,000 people in the 1990s [during the first war between the two countries] and 3,000 in the recent [2020] war. People have pain and sorrow. We understand the value of moving on to the next stage. It won’t be easy, but we have to start.

We don’t compare; every conflict, process, and war has different contexts. I would refrain from comparing. We never compare our conflict with Armenia with any dispute in the Middle East. We look at how various conflicts are solved and what initiatives were taken that could be relevant for us.

On the other hand, we had seen that before 19 September, the government of Armenia and Armenian representatives compared what was happening to them and the Holocaust. Azerbaijan was far from the Holocaust [in Europe], but we were one of the safe havens for European Jews. We saved the lives of several thousands of Jews. The Holocaust was one of the greatest tragedies of humankind. Many Jews still have pain and links to it and do not see it right to use this comparison on social media.

We have looked at Israel for its multiculturalism. Like Azerbaijan, Israel has built an environment where [citizens can celebrate] Ramadan, Passover and Easter simultaneously, and people can express their faith freely. As the first Azerbaijan ambassador to Israel, it has been important for me to learn a lot about this society and see what my country can learn.

This is a corridor connecting mainland Azerbaijan to its exclave of Naxcivan. The 2020 cease-fire agreement included a commitment to open transportation and communication lines. There have been several meetings with Armenia and Russia; so far, they have refused.

We don’t have territorial claims. We only ask for access to a railway and access to this strip [of land] to go to Naxcivan, because Azerbaijanis have been for 30 years unable to cross that strip, so they had to fly or take buses through Iranian territory. So, we asked them to open that corridor. Also, it would be commercially helpful for the Armenian side.

I want to stress that we don’t have any issues with civilians on the ground. We are sending humanitarian assistance, not for show, but because we see them as our citizens. As for ethnic cleansing, Azerbaijanis faced ethnic cleansing in the 1990s, when more than a million people were forced from their homes. We would never do it to any country or nation. The acts on the ground are the opposite of ethnic cleansing. The [Armenians] are free to stay.

The Guardian view on Nagorno-Karabakh’s exodus: many have fled, but protection is still needed

The Guardian, UK
Sept 28 2023

Ethnic Armenians are pouring out of the enclave. But the US and Europe must press Azerbaijan to respect the rights of those who remain

The self-declared republic of Nagorno-Karabakh will cease to exist on New Year’s Day 2024, its ethnic Armenian officials announced on Thursday. The former autonomous region broke away from Azerbaijan after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but was not recognised even by Armenia, which backed it. All its institutions will now be dissolved.

The truth is that it is already vanishing. A place is its people, and more than half the population of the enclave has fled to Armenia since last week’s 24-hour offensive by Azerbaijan to reclaim full control. As of Thursday morning, 68,000 of the 120,000 ethnic Armenians living there had left. Many more will follow. Armenia, a country of only 3 million, must be supported to integrate this number of refugees.

While Baku insists that ethnic Armenians are choosing to leave, and that they have nothing to fear, Thomas de Waal, an expert on the Caucasus at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, observed: “That is not how bitterly contested ethnic conflicts are fought, when armed groups are sent into civilian areas.” Armenia’s prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, has called it “a direct act of ethnic cleansing”.

What is clear is that few are willing to take the risk of staying. The context is a months-long blockade, which left residents without food or medicines; the warnings from Ilham Aliyev, the autocratic president of Azerbaijan, to “bend your necks”; last week’s military offensive, during which civilians, including children, were killed; and claims of abuses by Azerbaijan’s troops. Further back lies the shadow of the Armenian genocide of 1915, and more recently a history of ethnic cleansing on both sides in the 1990s conflict, in which Azerbaijanis suffered especially heavily. In the brief but vicious 2020 war, Azerbaijan reclaimed large swathes of territory, allowing Azerbaijanis who had left to return home. It also led to crimes including the decapitation of Armenian civilians.

Azerbaijan’s words also carry little weight right now. It launched its operation despite assuring foreign governments that it would refrain from force and in the face of clear warnings from the US and others that they would not countenance ethnic cleansing or other atrocities against the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh. Russia, Armenia’s treaty ally, brokered the previous ceasefire in 2020 and sent in a peacekeeping force, but is preoccupied with its invasion of Ukraine and is displeased with Armenia’s overtures to the west, including a recent joint military drill with the US. It has also been improving its ties to Azerbaijan. Turkey’s increasingly open support also emboldened Baku.

The US and others are rightly pressing for access for a UN monitoring mission. If Baku is doing nothing wrong, it should have nothing to hide. But given the speed of events, Washington, the EU and European governments must also insist that there will be accountability for what is now happening, including via the European court of human rights. European leaders appear genuinely shocked at the actions of Azerbaijan, with whom they had enjoyed warming relations. They should act accordingly.

This is not just about addressing the current crisis, but staving off future violence. There is concern about Azerbaijan’s desire to establish a corridor to Nakhchivan, which is territorially separated from the rest of the country, and President Aliyev’s recent talk of “western Azerbaijan”, in reference to Armenian territory. What happens now is essential not only for the ethnic Armenians who remain in Nagorno-Karabakh, but for others in the region.

Azerbaijan says it does not want exodus from Nagorno-Karabakh, urges Armenians to stay

Sept 28 2023
  • Azerbaijan says there's a future for Armenians in Karabakh
  • Says it does not want an exodus
  • But fleeing Armenians say they fear ethnic cleansing
  • Over half of Karabakh's Armenian population has fled

LONDON, Sept 28 (Reuters) – Azerbaijan does not want a mass exodus of ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh and is not encouraging anyone to leave the "liberated" region, Elin Suleymanov, Azerbaijan's ambassador to Britain, said on Thursday.

In an interview with Reuters, Suleymanov said Azerbaijan, which took back control of Karabakh last week in a military operation, had not yet had a chance to prove what he said was its genuine commitment to provide secure and better living conditions for those ethnic Armenians who choose to stay.

Some 70,500 people had crossed from Karabakh into Armenia by early Thursday afternoon, Russia's RIA news agency reported, out of an estimated population of 120,000. Earlier, Ethnic Armenian authorities in Karabakh said they were dissolving the breakaway statelet they had defended against Azerbaijan for three decades.

Many of those leaving have said they fear persecution and ethnic cleansing at the hands of Azerbaijan. Some critics have said the exodus, which has shown how little trust many Armenians have in Azerbaijani promises, is what Baku wants as it will make it easier to resettle the area with Azerbaijanis.

Suleymanov, who issued a call on social media appealing to ethnic Armenians to stay and be part of a multi-ethnic Azerbaijan, said he understood why many civilians were frightened, but that those who chose to stay would benefit from planned rebuilding and infrastructure projects.

"What should Azerbaijan do? We cannot keep them by force, we don't want to keep anyone by force, (but) we don't encourage anyone to leave," he said, adding that Azerbaijani authorities had delivered requested medical, fuel and other supplies.

"We would prefer for people at least to be in a position to make a more informed decision on whether they want to stay. So far, Azerbaijan has not had any chance to prove anything because the time was very short."

Karabakh Armenians will enjoy the same rights and protections as other citizens of Azerbaijan, he said. Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan.

He rejected Armenian fears that Azerbaijan would now proceed to destroy Armenian churches and monasteries in Karabakh, saying Baku had "no reason" to destroy historic monuments.

Baku's use of force to retake Karabakh has fuelled fears among some Armenians that it may also use force to carve out a land corridor via Armenia to link up western Azerbaijan with its autonomous exclave of Nakhchivan, a strip of territory nestled between Armenia, Iran and Turkey.

Suleymanov said the idea was to re-open transport corridors and make the wider region more prosperous and that he hoped a road and rail corridor could be agreed on via negotiation.

"Nobody is going to open anything by force," he said. "That defeats the purpose. Nobody is going to put troops there, we're not going to invade them (Armenia)."

Reporting by Andrew Osborn Editing by Gareth Jones

Exodus and ethnic cleansing? The sudden end of a decadeslong dream in the Caucasus

NBC News
Sept 28 2023
The dissolution of Nagorno-Karabakh as a breakaway state is a seminal point  — a rare supernova among the constellation of ethnic conflicts left by the implosion of the USSR.

After more than half the population of an ethnic Armenian enclave fled their homes in a mountainous pocket of land south of Russia, the breakaway republic’s leaders said it would soon “cease to exist.” 

In what amounted to a formal capitulation to Azerbaijan, which surrounds it, the Armenian leaders of Nagorno-Karabakh said the self-declared Republic of Artsakh would be dismantled by the end of the year.

This would end three decades of intermittent conflict in and around the enclave, break a 10-month blockade of the region in the South Caucasus that residents said had starved them into submission, and dash hopes of an independent state in territory claimed by Azerbaijan. 

The dissolution of Nagorno-Karabakh as a breakaway state is a seminal point  — a rare supernova among the constellation of ethnic conflicts left by the implosion of the then-Soviet Union in the early 1990s. The conflict’s abrupt halt reflects how the geopolitical reach of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced realignments far beyond that war.

In an official decree, the region’s separatist President Samvel Shakhramanyan said that residents of Nagorno-Karabakh must now “familiarize themselves with the conditions of reintegration” into Azerbaijan and make “an independent and individual decision about the possibility of staying (or returning) in Nagorno-Karabakh.”

An Armenian family fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh arrives at Yerevan airport in 1991 after being evacuated by a Soviet army helicopter.Wojtek Druszcz / AFP via Getty Images

The announcement came as around 70,000 of the enclave’s population of about 120,000 fled from the region, which sits within Azerbaijan’s borders, to neighboring Armenia, according to Armenia’s government, with more still arriving. 

Many residents hauled what few personal belongings they could gather into packed cars, trucks, buses and tractors, some pockmarked with shrapnel after days of Azerbaijani attacks. 

Armenia’s leadership has accused Azerbaijan of instigating a refugee crisis by launching a swift invasion this week. Azerbaijan has denied allegations of “ethnic cleansing,” saying it is not forcing people to leave, and would peacefully reintegrate the region and guarantee rights of ethnic Armenians.

Holding a wealth of monasteries, mosques and other religious sites, Nagorno-Karabakh is culturally significant for both Muslim Azeris and what was an overwhelming Christian Armenian population. Armenians in Azerbaijan have been victims of pogroms, while Azerbaijanis claim discrimination and violence at the hands of Armenians.

“Azerbaijan has won a comprehensive military victory and what we’re looking at now is the prospect of Nagorno-Karabakh without Armenians or with very few Armenians remaining,” said Thomas de Waal, a senior fellow with the London-based Carnegie Europe think tank. “So in that sense, Azerbaijan has won.”

For those fleeing, the despair of losing their homes was made worse by losing their homeland.

“Many of them are from villages which were taken by the Azerbaijani army, so they really lost their homes already,” said Astrig Agopian, a French Armenian journalist who has been reporting this week on the refugee crisis from Armenia’s border. “There is really this feeling that this time is different. It’s another war, but it’s a war that is definitely lost this time.” 

Were that the case, it would bring to an end decades of violence in the region, which has been at the center of geopolitical interests between Eastern and Western nations for centuries. 

The political dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh began as the then-Soviet Union weakened in the late 1980s, and Armenians demanded that the majority-Armenian region be incorporated into the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic.

After the USSR collapsed in 1991, the conflict erupted into a full-scale war that persisted until a Russian-brokered peace deal in 1994. About 30,000 people were killed and more than a million people displaced.

“My husband died in the first war. He was 30, I was 26. Our children were 3 and 4 years old. It is the fourth war that I went through,” Narine Shakaryan, a grandmother of four, told the Reuters news agency after she arrived in Armenia. “My husband died back then, he was 30 in 1994. That’s the cursed life that we live.”

The fighting continued intermittently for several more decades, leaving an indelible mark on generations of Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian residents. A recent war in 2020 saw the more powerful Azerbaijan, backed by Turkey, reclaim much of the land surrounding the area, as well as part of the region itself.

Russia negotiated an end to that flare-up and even deployed peacekeepers to ensure security along the Lachin Corridor, the single mountain road that connected Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh.

But the events of the past year show how Moscow, which has historically played the role of both peacekeeper and ally to Armenia — which shares its Christian roots and hosts a Russian military base —  has adjusted its allegiances following its invasion of Ukraine and its conflicts with the West.

“The pivotal factor was that Azerbaijan was talking separately to the Russians, and had a joint agenda with the Russians, to pressure Armenia and also to keep the West out of the Caucasus,” de Waal said. “This is why when the Azerbaijani assault happened, Russian peacekeepers who could have actually stopped it stood down. And then Russia failed to condemn the attack.”

After its invasion of Ukraine left Russia isolated, Moscow may feel it has more to gain from cozying up to Azerbaijan than Armenia, particularly after the latter made a public display of cozying up to the West and provided humanitarian aid to Kyiv. 

Earlier this month, the country conducted joint exercises with the U.S. military and the Armenian Parliament is set to vote next week on whether to accede to the International Criminal Court, which classifies Russian President Vladimir Putin as a war criminal — a move the Kremlin characterized Thursday as “extremely hostile.”

Inside Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan’s government has assured the region’s Armenian population that they will be treated humanely and afforded equal rights. 

But after months of blockades and blistering fighting, few ethnic Armenians believe it and many feel they have no choice but to flee.

Nagorno-Karabakh: MEPs set to condemn Azerbaijan’s latest unjustified attack


YEREVAN, SEPTEMBER 28, ARMENPRESS. On October 3, the European Parliament will debate the dire situation in Nagorno-Karabakh following Azerbaijan’s recent aggression which has resulted in a mass exodus of ethnic Armenians from their homes, the European Parliament’s press service reported.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has also warned of ethnic cleansing in the area, the EP press release stated.

Following the plenary debate with representatives of the Spanish Presidency of the Council and the European Commission, a resolution will be put to a vote on Thursday.

‘Azerbaijan continues to perpetrate ethnic cleansing right now,’ Speaker Simonyan warns CoE counterparts in Dublin


YEREVAN, SEPTEMBER 29, ARMENPRESS. Speaker of Parliament Alen Simonyan has warned his counterparts from Council of Europe member states that Azerbaijan is perpetrating ethnic cleansing in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“Azerbaijan continues to perpetrate ethnic cleansing right now,” Simonyan said at the European Conference of Presidents of Parliament in Dublin. “Tens of thousands of people are leaving their homes, and this is happening in the 21st century in front of the whole world. This is true evil…”

84,770 forcibly displaced persons have crossed into Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh as of Friday morning amid the ongoing mass exodus following the September 19-20 Azerbaijani attack which ended after Nagorno-Karabakh authorities agreed to Azerbaijan’s terms in a Russian-brokered ceasefire deal.