The lightning military attack launched by Azerbaijan last week forced the Nagorno-Karabakh government to surrender and agree to dismantle its armed forces. The advance of Azerbaijani forces has also led to a mass exodus of the mountainous region’s ethnic Armenian population who say they fear genocide and, in any case, are unwilling to live under Azerbaijani rule.
More than 66,000 people – more than half the region’s population – have crossed the border into Armenia, and some officials say they believe the entire population will leave.
Exodus from Nagorno-Karabakh: “I never imagined that one day we would leave”
Prominent members of the Nagorno-Karabakh government have also been arrested or surrendered to the Azerbaijani government.
David Babayan, a longtime spokesman for the separatist government who also briefly served as its foreign minister, said he planned to turn himself in to authorities in Shusha, a city now controlled by Azerbaijan.
“You all know that I am on Azerbaijan’s blacklist, and that the Azerbaijani side has demanded my arrival in Baku to conduct the appropriate investigation,” Babayan wrote on Facebook. He added: “This decision will of course cause great pain and stress to my loved ones, but I am sure they will understand. My failure to appear, or worse, my escape, will cause serious harm to our long-suffering people.”
Azerbaijani border guards said on Wednesday that they had arrested Ruben Vardanyan, the former state minister of Artsakh, and on Thursday, Azerbaijan’s State Security Service announced that he had been arrested on charges of financing state terrorism.
The Nagorno-Karabakh region has been witnessing a fierce conflict between the two former Soviet republics since the war that broke out in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the Armenian majority in the region sought to secede from the newly independent state of Azerbaijan.
The First Nagorno-Karabakh War ended in a decisive Armenian victory. Both sides committed massacres, but in the end the vast majority of Azerbaijanis – hundreds of thousands – were forced to leave the region.
In a short war in 2020, Azerbaijan regained most of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, ending decades of Armenian control over the region.
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