Almost a week after Azerbaijan's successful lightning offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh, thousands of refugees are fleeing to Armenia. Monday evening, in the middle of an exodus, a fuel depot exploded in the enclave, killing at least 20 people and wounding 280... Le Figaro takes stock of the situation.
More than 13,000 refugees
At least 13,000 people from Nagorno-Karabakh have fled to Armenia, Yerevan said Tuesday (September 26th), nearly a week after Azerbaijan's lightning and successful offensive in the breakaway Caucasus region populated mainly by Armenians. On Tuesday, the Armenian government announced that it had received more than 13,000, while hundreds of vehicles were still on their way to the country, an AFP team found.
These civilians are fleeing despite Azerbaijan's promise, reiterated Monday by its president Ilham Aliyev, that the rights of Armenians in this enclave conquered by its army would be "guaranteed". He was speaking alongside his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a key player in the region, just days after the victory of Azerbaijani soldiers against the troops of the self-proclaimed "republic" of Nagorno-Karabakh, a region mostly populated by Armenians, attached in 1921 to Azerbaijan by the Soviet power.
The European Union is due to receive on Tuesday in Brussels senior representatives of Armenia and Azerbaijan, two former Soviet republics that clashed militarily in Nagorno-Karabakh from 1988 to 1994 (30,000 dead) and autumn 2020 (6500 dead). The death toll from last week's blitzkrieg is 200, according to the Armenian side.
Hundreds of vehicles head to Armenia
Hundreds of vehicles were heading from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia on Tuesday. An uninterrupted stream of cars with families piling their belongings on the roof crowded at the last Azerbaijani checkpoint before entering Armenian territory via the Lachina corridor.
There were huge traffic jams on the only road linking its "capital" Stepanakert to Armenia. Azerbaijan has pledged to allow rebels who surrender their weapons to go to Armenia. Many fear that Armenians will flee Nagorno-Karabakh en masse as Azerbaijani forces tighten their grip. In addition to the anguish among the region's 120,000 inhabitants, the humanitarian situation remains very tense.
Last week, Pashinyan announced that his country of 2.9 million people was preparing to take in 40,000 refugees.
20 dead in explosion
On Monday evening, in the midst of an exodus, a fuel depot exploded in the enclave, killing at least 20 people and wounding 280, the separatist authorities said Tuesday, as they requested urgent external assistance to deal with the disaster. "Dozens of patients remain in critical condition," they said in a statement, adding that the injured suffered burns of varying severity had been hospitalized in Nagorno-Karabakh. Twenty people died, thirteen of them unidentified. The bodies of the unidentified victims will be subjected to forensic analysis, according to the same source.