The Republic of Karabakh will cease to exist as of January 1, 2024

2023-09-28 17:34:42Kosova&Bota SHKRUAR NGA REDAKSIA VOX
Officials say more than 63,000 people - half the ethnic Armenian population - have fled Nagorno-Karabakh

Officials say more than 63,000 people - half the ethnic Armenian population - have fled Nagorno-Karabakh

From January 1, 2024, there will no longer be a republic of Karabakh.

The president of ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, Samvel Shahramanyan, issued a decree on Thursday effectively dissolving the self-proclaimed republic.

Several years of Armenian resistance and autonomy efforts were undone in a 24-hour action by Azerbaijan, which returned the territory under its tutelage.

The most important development comes at a time when more than 63 thousand ethnic Armenians, who lived in Nagorno-Karabakh, are leaving for Armenian territory.

In total, about 120 thousand of them will leave Karabakh.

Hundreds of cars have poured onto a road leading to Armenia, the destination of those leaving.

Azerbaijan says residents will be safe, but Armenia's prime minister says "ethnic cleansing" has begun.

Nagorno-Karabakh - known as part of Azerbaijan - had been run by ethnic Armenians for three decades.

The mountainous region in the South Caucasus has been supported by Armenia – but also by its ally, Russia.

At least 200 ethnic Armenians and dozens of Azerbaijani soldiers were killed by the Azerbaijani army. As part of a ceasefire agreement, the separatists have agreed to surrender their weapons.

Azeris have said they want to treat ethnic Armenians as "equal citizens", but a limited amount of aid has been allowed and many residents are fleeing.

On Monday, a massive explosion at a gas station killed hundreds of people who were trying to leave.

About 300 others were injured and 105 are missing.

It is not yet clear what caused the explosion on Monday evening near the main town of Khankendi, known as Stepanakert to Armenians, but many were refueling their cars.

As they crossed the border on Tuesday, thousands of ethnic Armenians were subjected to rigorous checks by Azerbaijan's border services.

Azerbaijani authorities claimed they were looking for "war crimes" suspects, and a government source told the Agence France Presse news agency that the country intended to apply an "amnesty to Armenian fighters who laid down their arms in Karabakh".

"But those who committed war crimes during the Karabakh wars must be handed over to us," they said.

Hundreds of cars and buses are trying to reach the town of Goris across the border.

A BBC crew saw families huddled in cars and roof racks piled high with belongings. Convinced that they are leaving their homes forever, people are packing as much of their lives as possible into their vehicles.

Inside Goris, a small town that is as dusty brown as the rugged mountains that surround it, the narrow streets are filled with more cars and more families.

One arrived with a car held together with little more than duct tape, its side badly scratched and dotted with shrapnel holes and broken windows.

In the town's main square, people wander around, unsure of what to do next. Volunteers distribute some basic food and blankets.

Evacuees are registered and there are occasional buses to move people to another town or village. But few people seem to have a plan, beyond getting this far.