Over 65,000 individuals have sought refuge in Armenia, fleeing from the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which came under Azerbaijani control last week following a swift military campaign. This represents over half of the estimated population of the separatist region, as reported by Reuters on Thursday, citing a spokesperson for the Armenian Prime Minister. In this context, the internationally unrecognized Karabakh republic is on the brink of dissolution.
The President of the Republic of Karabakh (Artsakh Republic), Samvel Shahramanyan, has issued a decree for the dissolution of all state institutions effective from January 1, 2024. Consequently, the internationally unacknowledged state entity will cease to exist from that date, according to reports from local authorities cited by foreign news agencies. Nagorno-Karabakh has been under the administration of ethnic Armenians for the past three decades, but last week, Azerbaijan assumed control of the region through a rapid military offensive.
While Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, it is predominantly inhabited by ethnic Armenians. In a violent conflict that ended in 1994, Armenian separatists, with the backing of Yerevan, took control of the enclave and its surrounding territory. In a six-week confrontation with Armenia in 2020, Azerbaijan recaptured districts bordering the enclave and a portion of Karabakh. The conflict concluded with a ceasefire brokered by Russia, which has maintained approximately 2,000 troops there as a peacekeeping force since then.
Last Tuesday, Baku initiated a military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh to establish authority over the region. Shortly thereafter, Azerbaijani forces breached the defensive positions held by Armenian separatists, leading to the capitulation of the Karabakh authorities. Baku insisted that Karabakh soldiers disarm, and the separatist government cease its activities.
A corresponding decree has now been signed by the President of the Karabakh republic, citing the ceasefire agreement from last week, as reported by AP. Under the terms of the agreement, Baku will facilitate “free, voluntary, and unobstructed movement” for residents of Nagorno-Karabakh.
In recent days, tens of thousands of people have left the region, fearing persecution and ethnic cleansing. According to Yerevan, to date, more than 65,000 individuals have relocated from the separatist region to Armenia, representing over half of the estimated population.