Explosion at Nagorno-Karabakh Fuel Depot Claims 20 Lives and Leaves Hundreds Injured
On Monday, a devastating explosion occurred at a fuel depot in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan, resulting in the death of 20 people and injuring hundreds more, as reported by Armenian authorities. The blast took place in the main city of Stepanakert, and the cause of the explosion remains unclear. About 300 people were admitted to hospitals, with many of them still in a critical condition.
Nagorno-Karabakh: A Region in Strife
Nagorno-Karabakh, home to approximately 120,000 ethnic Armenians, is a disputed territory that has been the center of conflict for decades. The explosion occurred amidst a mass exodus of refugees from the region into Armenia. The Armenian government reported that 13,350 refugees had crossed into Armenia following Azerbaijan’s seizure of Nagorno-Karabakh last week. This seizure triggered the displacement of thousands of individuals, as the Armenian government in Yerevan announced plans to relocate those made homeless by the fighting.
Nikol Pashinyan, the Prime Minister of Armenia, has accused Azerbaijan of conducting ethnic cleansing in the region, a claim that Azerbaijan vehemently denies. According to Azerbaijan, its aim is to reintegrate ethnic Armenians as “equal citizens”. However, the reported instances of relocation and alleged mistreatment have stirred fears among the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Diplomatic Talks on the Horizon
Diplomatic discussions between envoys from Armenia and Azerbaijan are set to take place in Brussels, supported by the European Union. These talks will be the first of their kind since Azerbaijan’s seizure of the enclave. While Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as a part of Azerbaijan, it has been governed by ethnic Armenians for the past three decades with the backing of Armenia and Russia. The recent conflict resulted in the deaths of five Russian peacekeepers, at least 200 ethnic Armenians, and dozens of Azerbaijani soldiers.
The Ongoing Humanitarian Crisis
Despite reassurances from Azerbaijan, there is a growing concern for the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh. Only one aid delivery has been allowed through since the separatists accepted a ceasefire and agreed to disarm. Ethnic Armenian leaders claim that thousands are without food or shelter, resorting to sleeping in basements, schools, or outdoors due to the dire circumstances. The desperate situation calls for immediate international attention and humanitarian assistance.
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