Nagorno-Karabakh Fuel Depot Explosion Claims 20 Lives, Leaves 200 Injured
In an unfortunate turn of events, a devastating explosion at a fuel storage facility in Nagorno Karabakh left at least 20 people dead and over 200 injured. The incident occurred during a time of heightened tension as the Azerbaijani military assumed full control of the territory previously governed by ethnic Armenians. The explosion happened while residents were queuing to get fuel for their vehicles, intending to flee the region. The majority of the victims are in severe condition and require airlift for medical treatment. The cause of the explosion remains uncertain.
Azerbaijan’s Swift Offensive
Following a swift offensive last week, the Azerbaijani military successfully pushed out Armenian forces. This turn of events has led to negotiations concerning Nagorno Karabakh’s reintegration into Azerbaijan after three decades of separatist control. While Azerbaijan has made promises to respect the rights of ethnic Armenians in the region and restore supplies following a 10-month blockade, many residents fear reprisals and have chosen to leave for Armenia.
Residents Flee to Armenia
The Armenian government reported that over 6,500 Nagorno Karabakh residents had fled to Armenia by Monday evening. Russian peacekeepers in the region have been aiding the evacuation, and by Monday night, around 700 people remained in the peacekeepers’ camp.
Negotiations amidst Chaos
The explosion occurred just hours after the second round of talks between Azerbaijani officials and separatist representatives in Khojaly. The discussions were centered on humanitarian aid and medical services for the region.
Political Unrest in Armenia
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has stated that his government is working with international partners to ensure the rights and security of Armenians in Nagorno Karabakh. Despite these assurances, demonstrators in Armenia are calling for Pashinyan’s resignation, blaming him for failing to protect Armenians adequately in the region.
Role of Russian Peacekeepers
Russian peacekeepers have been stationed in Nagorno Karabakh since a Russian-brokered armistice ended a six-week war between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces in 2020. However, these peacekeepers have faced criticism for their inability to prevent hostilities and protect the Armenian population.
History of the Dispute
Nagorno Karabakh has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by the Armenian military since separatist fighting concluded in 1994. During the 2020 war, Azerbaijan regained portions of Nagorno Karabakh and surrounding territory previously claimed by Armenian forces. In December, Azerbaijan imposed a blockade on the only road connecting Nagorno Karabakh with Armenia, accusing the Armenian government of using the road for illicit activities.
French President Emmanuel Macron pledged support for Armenia and Armenians, promising to mobilize food and medical aid for the population of Nagorno Karabakh. France, which has a large Armenian diaspora, has acted as a mediator in Nagorno Karabakh for many years. In contrast, Turkey, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visiting Azerbaijan, has shown support for Azerbaijan.
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