Separatist Government Says It Will Dissolve Itself

More than half of Nagorno-Karabakh's population has fled to Armenia
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 28, 2023 4:36 AM CDT
More Than Half of Nagorno-Karabakh's Population Has Fled
A wounded ethnic Armenian man is helped by volunteers walk as he arrives in Armenia on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023.   (AP Photo/Vasily Krestyaninov)

The separatist government of Nagorno-Karabakh announced Thursday that it will dissolve itself and the unrecognized republic will cease to exist by the end of the year. Armenian officials said more than half of the population has already fled. Last week, Azerbaijan carried out a lightning offensive to reclaim full control over its breakaway region and demanded that Armenian troops in Nagorno-Karabakh lay down their weapons and the separatist government dissolve itself. A decree to that effect was signed by the region's separatist President Samvel Shakhramanyan, the AP reports.

The document cited an agreement reached last week to end the fighting under which Azerbaijan will allow the "free, voluntary, and unhindered movement" of Nagorno-Karabakh residents and disarm troops in Armenia in exchange. The massive exodus began on Sunday evening, and the only road linking Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia quickly filled up with cars that created an hourslong traffic jam. On Monday night, a fuel reservoir exploded at a gas station where people seeking to leave were lining up for gas that due to the blockade had been in short supply. At least 68 people were killed and nearly 300 injured, with over 100 more still considered missing.

By Thursday morning, more than half of Nagorno-Karabakh's population—66,500 people—had fled to Armenia, and the influx continues with unabating intensity, according to Armenian officials. It isn't immediately clear if any of the ethnic Armenians that have populated the region will remain there. Shakhramayan's decree on Thursday urged Nagorno-Karabakh's population—including those who left—"to familiarize themselves with the conditions of reintegration offered by the Republic of Azerbaijan" before making a decision about staying or returning. On Thursday, Azerbaijani authorities charged Ruben Vardanyan, the former head of Nagorno-Karabakh's separatist government, with financing terrorism, creating illegal armed formations, and illegally crossing a state border. (More Nagorno-Karabakh stories.)

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