Thousands flee disputed Nagorno-Karabakh after Azerbaijan seizes control

A refugee holding food and water walks along the queue of vehicles near the border town of Kornidzor, arriving from Nagorno-Karabakh
A refugee holding food and water walks along the queue of vehicles near the border town of Kornidzor, arriving from Nagorno-Karabakh Copyright Alain JOCARD / AFP
By Euronews with Agencies
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Azerbaijan says it's looking for perpetrators of 'war crimes' as people continue to travel to Armenia.


At least 19,000 people have now fled the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and found refuge in Armenia, according to the country's government. 

Thousands have been fleeing across the border since Azerbaijan defeated the separatists who have governed the breakaway region for about 30 years in a swift military operation last week.

The outflow of people has not been peaceful. On Monday evening, a fuel depot exploded in the predominantly Armenian-populated enclave, leaving at least 20 people dead and 280 injured, the separatist authorities announced on Tuesday. 

"Dozens of patients are still in critical condition", they said in a statement.

Among the dead, 13 have not been identified.

The French government said on Tuesday that the "massive" exodus of Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh was taking place "under the complicit eye of Russia", which deployed a peacekeeping force in the breakaway region in 2020.

"We note with great concern the mass departure of Armenians, which is taking place under the complicit eye of Russia", said Anne-Claire Legendre, spokeswoman for the French Foreign Ministry. She reiterated that Paris would "hold Azerbaijan fully responsible for the fate of the Armenian population".

Among the flood of Armenian refugees, Azerbaijan is looking for possible perpetrators of atrocities, an Azerbaijani government source said.

Emmanuel Dunand / AFP
A refugee and her children wait at the Lachin checkpoint to leave Karabakh for ArmeniaEmmanuel Dunand / AFP

"Azerbaijan intends to grant amnesty to Armenian fighters who have laid down their arms in Karabakh. But those who committed war crimes during the wars in Karabakh must be handed over to us," said the source, by way of an explanation as to why men of fighting age were filmed by a camera at the last checkpoint before leaving the enclave.

"We've lived through terrible days"

Many fear that Armenians will continue fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh en masse as Azerbaijani forces tighten their grip.

In addition to the anguish felt by the region's 120,000 inhabitants, the humanitarian situation remains very tense.

The influx of refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh into Armenia has led to huge traffic jams on the only road linking the "capital" of the breakaway region, Stepanakert, to that country.

Since Sunday evening, crowds have inundated the border town of Goris, the first stop for most of the refugees and home to just 20,000 inhabitants.

Once past the Kornidzor post, just over the border, those with "nowhere else to go" are taken there. Among them are people like Valentina Asrian, whose brother-in-law was killed in last week's bombardments and who holds her grandson swaddled against her body.

"We've lived through terrible days," stressed Anabel Ghulasyan, 41, from the village of Rev, known as Shalva in Azeri.

In front of the theatre in Goris, white minibuses keep arriving. Others leave, their trunks loaded with luggage, bound for Yerevan and the country's major cities.

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