Thursday, UN Court Asked To Rule Against ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ In Karabakh • Anush Mkrtchian • Ruzanna Stepanian Armenia - Karabakh Armenian refugees wait in a square in Goris on September 29, 2023 before being evacuated to other parts of Armenia. An Armenian government official on Thursday urged the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to help reverse what Yerevan regards as “ethnic cleansing” in Nagorno-Karabakh resulting from last month’s Azerbaijani military offensive. Yeghishe Kirakosian, who represents the government in international tribunals, argued that virtually all ethnic Armenian residents of Nagorno-Karabakh have fled to Armenia since the September 19-20 assault that enabled Baku to regain control over the region. “For millennia, Armenians made up an overwhelming majority in Nagorno-Karabakh,” Kirakosian told the United Nations court. “Today there are almost no ethnic Armenians left in Karabakh. If this is not ethnic cleansing, then what is?” “It is still possible to avert the irreversibility of the forced displacement of the ethnic Armenians,” he said. Azerbaijan’s leadership has denied responsibility for the mass exodus of Karabakh’s population and pledged to protect the rights of local residents willing to live under Azerbaijani rule. Kirakosian spoke during court hearings on a dozen fresh injunctions demanded by his government on September 28 as part of an ongoing legal battle with Azerbaijan. Yerevan specifically asked the ICJ to order Baku to refrain from displacing Karabakh’s remaining residents and preventing the safe and speedy return to their homes of the more than 100,000 other locals who have taken refuge in Armenia. It also wants the Azerbaijani side to withdraw military and security personnel from Karabakh civilian facilities, give the UN and other international organizations access to the depopulated region and protect its religious and cultural monuments. Netherlands - Judges enter as the delegations of Iran and the U.S. stand up at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, February 13, 2019. Another “provisional measure” sought by Yerevan would ban Baku from taking “punitive actions” against Karabakh’s current and former political or military leaders. About a dozen of them were arrested and indicted by Azerbaijani authorities following the offensive. Kirakosian condemned their “illegal” imprisonment. The ICJ already ordered Azerbaijan in February to unblock the sole road connecting Karabakh to Armenia. Baku ignored the order. Meanwhile, in Yerevan, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said that his government “will do everything” to help all refugees unable or unwilling to return to Karabakh settle down in Armenia. He said it has already proved that it treats them like “citizens of the Republic of Armenia.” Speaking during a weekly cabinet meeting, Pashinian and members of his government touted financial and other assistance allocated to the refugees. It includes a one-off cash payment of 100,000 drams ($250) which is due to be given to every refugee. The government claims to have housed more than half of the 100,000 or so refugees in hotels, disused public buildings and empty village houses. It has also pledged to pay every refugee 50,000 drams ($125) per month for housing expenses. Russia Hopes For Continued Alliance With Armenia UN - Reporters ask questions as Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov holds a press conference following his address to the UN General Assembly in New York, September 23, 2023. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed hope on Thursday that Armenia will not reorient its foreign and security policy away from Russia despite unprecedented tensions between the two longtime allies. “We are deeply convinced that the Armenian people are overwhelmingly interested in the development of traditionally, historically brotherly ties with the Russian Federation,” Lavrov told reporters in Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek. “I want to bring your attention to the fact that a couple of days ago Prime Minister [Nikol] Pashinian gave … an interview in which he made clear that Armenia is not changing its orientation. We hope that this position will prevail despite [Western] attempts to drag Yerevan in another direction,” he said. The Russian-Armenia rift deepened further last month after Moscow decried “a series of unfriendly steps” taken by Yerevan. Those included Pashinian’s declaration that his government is trying to “diversify our security policy” because Armenia’s reliance on Russia for defense and security has proved a “strategic mistake.” He also suggested that Russia will eventually “leave” Armenia and the region. This raised more questions about the South Caucasus country’s continued membership in Russian-led blocs. Russia’s failure to prevent, stop or even condemn Azerbaijan’s September 19-20 military offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh, which caused a mass exodus of its ethnic Armenian population, only added to the tensions. The Russian Foreign Ministry accused Pashinian on September 25 of seeking to ruin Russian-Armenian relations and reorient his country towards the West. Speaking to Armenian Public Television on Tuesday, Pashinian insisted that he has no plans to demand the withdrawal of Russian troops from Armenia or get his country out of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) repeatedly criticized by Yerevan. It emerged the following day that the Armenian premier will not attend Friday’s summit in Bishkek of the leaders of Russia and other ex-Soviet states making up the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). His foreign minister, Ararat Mirzoyan, similarly boycotted a meeting of the top diplomats of CIS countries held there on Thursday. Lavrov hoped to hold trilateral talks with his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts on the sidelines of the Bishkek meeting. Yerevan now seems to prefer Western mediation of Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks. One of Lavrov’s deputies, Mikhail Galuzin, claimed on Monday that the main goal of that mediation is to drive Russia out of the South Caucasus. Karabakh Refugees Stuck In Makeshift Shelters In Armenia • Susan Badalian • Satenik Kaghzvantsian Armenia - A kindergarten in Masis turned into a shelter for Karabakh refugees, . Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian touted his government’s handling of the massive influx of refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh on Thursday even as at least 1,700 of them continued to live in kindergartens, schools and other buildings hastily converted into shelters. Those refugees have so far been unable to find more adequate housing, which is increasingly expensive and in short supply in Armenia. About 100 of them are sheltering in a kindergarten in Masis, a small town just south of Yerevan. Local authorities only managed to install additional toilets there before making the building available to the Karabakh Armenians who fled to Armenia after Azerbaijan’s September 19-20 military offensive. They also supply free food to the shelter on a daily basis. Lena Avanesian, an elderly woman, shares a section of a kindergarten hall with her nephew and his wife. Only a curtain separates their makeshift home from several other families living in the large room. Avanesian’s biggest wish now is to replace it a wall and a door. “We have to live here because we have nowhere to go,” said Zarine, another refugee whose family is looking for a village house in southern Ararat province but has not managed to find one so far. RFE/RL’s Armenian Service heard on Thursday similar stories from other residents of the Masis shelter. Armenia - A school gym in Artashat turned into a shelter for Karabakh refugees, October 9, 2023. “We can’t find anything. There are simply no available homes,” said Arayik Hayrian, a young Karabakh man staying there with his brother’s and sister’s families. A large group of other refugees in Masis are staying in a former casino building. They include Susanna Baghdasarian and nine other members of her family that had already fled its home in Karabakh’s southern Hadrut district when it was captured by Azerbaijani forces during the 2020 war. They lived in Stepanakert until the mass exodus of Karabakh’s population. “I can’t complain about anything: they provided us with shelter and they give us food,” said Baghdasarian. She said her family has not yet started looking for a better place of residence because it is waiting for the Armenian government to make good on its pledge to give every refugee 50,000 drams ($125) per month for housing expenses. Pashinian touted this and other assistance during a weekly cabinet meeting in Yerevan. He said Western donors are impressed with the Armenian government’s response to the arrival of more than 100,000 refugees from Karabakh. “They say they are surprised that 100,000 forcibly displaced people, essentially refugees, entered the country in three days and the government was able to take care of their short-term and mid-term needs,” he said. “They say that they do not remember such a precedent in the world.” Pashinian revealed at the same time that 2,500 Karabakh refugees have already left Armenia, presumably for Russia. He said he hopes that they will come back “some time later.” Armenia - Karabakh refugee Meline Khachatrian and her children, The government claims to have housed more than half of the refugees in hotels, disused public buildings and empty village houses. They include Meline Khachatrian, her husband and five children. The government gave them a free house in Hatsik, a village in Armenia’s northwestern Shirak province, while private benefactors donated furniture and household appliances. Four of the children are already enrolled in a local school. Khachatrian’s husband is a Karabakh military officer who was swiftly recruited by the Armenian army late last month. The 32-year-old nurse said she was “terrified” when her family reached an Azerbaijani army checkpoint in the Lachin corridor during the evacuation to Armenia. “We heard rumors that the Azerbaijanis have a list of more than 20,000 Karabakh military personnel [subject to arrest,]” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. Khachatrian said while she still hopes to return to Karabakh one day, living there “under enemy rule” is out of question. “That is why we decided to remain Armenians and move to Armenia,” added the woman. Reposted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL Copyright (c) 2023 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc. 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.