RFE/RL Armenian Service – 10/12/2023


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” 

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 

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 

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
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