At least 68 people were killed and another 300 injured. in the burst occurred this Monday in a fuel depot in Nagorno Karabakh, region populated by Armenians but belonging to Azerbaijan. The incident took place amid a growing exodus to Armeniaafter Azerbaijan regained control with a military offensive.
According to the office of the Karabakh Ombudsman, Guegam Stepanián, cited by OTA, the death of 68 people was confirmed by forensic teams, of which 21 have been identified.
Stepanián also counted on 105 missing and 290 were injured in the explosion that occurred in a warehouse located on the road between the Karabakh capital, Stepanakert (Jankendi), and the city of Askeran.
The injured were all hospitalized in Armenia, some transported in ambulances and others in helicopters of the Russian peacekeeping forces deployed in the area since the 2020 war.
When the explosion occurred, in the vicinity of the warehouse There were hundreds of private cars belonging to Karabakhs who wanted to leave the territory. after the military defeat a week ago against Azerbaijan.
Since Sunday, more than 28,000 people left the territory for neighboring Armenia, which was willing to welcome all Karabakh refugees.
In addition to the Armenian authorities, who denounced the «ethnic cleansing» of the territory, the UN and the US also expressed their concern about the humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Azerbaijan’s offensive It lasted just 24 hours and forced the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh to agree to disarm and disband their military and security forces and to begin talks with the Azerbaijani Government for the «reintegration» of the territory to Azerbaijan.
Although Azerbaijan promised to respect the rights of the region’s Armenian majority and restore the flow of supplies after a ten-month blockade, many residents fear reprisals and have decided to leave, after Armenia denounced plans for «ethnic cleansing.»
In this context, Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Khachatrian put the number of refugees at 19,000. who arrived in the country since Sunday from Nagorno Karabakh.
At a press conference, he added that 2,500 have already been resettled, but have turned to the State for help.
Another 1,200 are in the installation process and the rest of the displaced have housing in the territory of the former Soviet republic, he said.
Nagorno-Karabakh had 120,000 inhabitants before Azerbaijan’s lightning offensive on September 19.
A conflict with history
Armenia has fought two wars against Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh since 1988, but this time it did not intervene on behalf of the enclave’s Armenians.who were increasingly cornered since suffering another heavy defeat in the last war, in 2020.
Although mostly populated by Armenians, Nagorno-Karabakh was integrated into Azerbaijan, and not Armenia, during the era of the former Soviet Union, when the two countries belonged to the Russian-led bloc.
Russia, which mediated to end the 2020 war and deployed a contingent of peacekeeping troops to Karabakh, said it was assisting in the evacuation process.
In the 2020 war, Azerbaijan retook parts of the enclave along with surrounding areas which had also fallen under the rule of the Armenians in the previous conflict.
In Brussels, meanwhile, authorities of the European Union (EU) today received representatives from Armenia and Azerbaijan – which sent advisor Haiyev – and They asked them for «concrete actions» and «decisive solutions» to end the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.
«Concrete actions and decisive compromises are needed in all avenues of the normalization process,» said the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, in a statement after the meeting, in which emissaries from Germany and France also participated.
Armenia was represented by the secretary of its Security Council, Armen Grigoryan.
The EU condemned Azerbaijan’s military offensive in Nagorno Karabakh, and Michel demanded from Hajiyev, who is very close to President Ilham Aliyev, humanitarian access and a «more detailed vision» of Azerbaijani plans for the future of the Armenian inhabitants of the area.