Explosion at Nagorno-Karabakh Fuel Depot: A Tragic Blow Amidst Ongoing Conflict
A significant explosion at a fuel storage facility in the Nagorno-Karabakh region on Monday evening led to heavy casualties and heightened tension in the already volatile region. The region’s human rights ombudsman, Gegham Stepanyan, reported that over 200 people were injured, with the majority in severe or extremely severe condition. The cause of the blast remains unknown, with immediate investigation efforts hindered by the need for urgent medical assistance.
Continued Unrest in Nagorno-Karabakh
The incident occurred following a recent Azerbaijani military offensive that led to the surrender of Armenian separatist forces in Nagorno-Karabakh. Consequently, an agreement for Nagorno-Karabakh’s integration into Azerbaijan was reached, ending years of separatist rule. However, despite Azerbaijan’s pledge to respect the rights of ethnic Armenians in the region and to resume supplies following a 10-month blockade, many residents chose to relocate to Armenia, fearing possible reprisals.
By Monday evening, the Armenian government reported that over 6,500 Nagorno-Karabakh residents had relocated to Armenia. Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh were aiding the evacuation process, with around 700 people still present in their camp as of Monday night.
Escalating Tensions and Instability
The explosion took place shortly after the second round of discussions between Azerbaijani officials and separatist representatives, focusing on humanitarian aid and medical services for the region. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated that his government was working with international partners to ensure the rights and safety of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. However, protests demanding Pashinyan’s resignation over his perceived failure to protect Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh continued in the Armenian capital on Monday, occasionally leading to clashes with the police.
(Read Also: Tensions and Turmoil: The Ongoing Crisis in Karabakh)
Once controlled by ethnic Armenian forces, with support from the Armenian military, Nagorno-Karabakh witnessed Azerbaijan regain parts of the region and surrounding territories during the 2020 conflict. These territories had been previously claimed by Armenian forces in an earlier conflict. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Azerbaijan on Monday to support his ally, while Russia, Armenia’s primary ally and sponsor, continues to host a military base in the country.
The catastrophic explosion at the fuel depot, the mass migration of Nagorno-Karabakh residents to Armenia, and the ongoing political unrest highlight the fragile situation in this contested region. The consequences of this incident will likely influence the dynamics of the conflict and the future of Nagorno-Karabakh, adding another layer of complexity to an already intricate geopolitical issue. Efforts to ensure the safety of residents, provide appropriate medical care to the victims, and prevent further escalation of the conflict will be essential in the coming weeks.
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