Ethnic Armenians are fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh as Russia fails to uphold the peace deal.

RIGA, Latvia — Hundreds of Armenians waiting for gasoline to escape the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region were injured Monday in an explosion at a fuel depot, local officials said, as top U.S. officials visited Armenia and He promised humanitarian aid. The flood of refugees that began on Sunday preceded an imminent occupation of Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan recaptured much of Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous region recognized internationally as its territory, during a brief war in 2020. A hastily brokered ceasefire by Russia helped end the fighting but left tens of thousands of ethnic Armenians living in the region, particularly in the capital Stepanakert, without a long-term plan, but apparently That under the protection of Russian peacekeepers.

Azerbaijan’s military offensive last week forced the self-proclaimed government of Nagorno-Karabakh, known as Artsakh in Armenian, to surrender and disband its armed forces. Warnings by local authorities that advancing Azerbaijani forces would engage in “ethnic cleansing” have terrified residents and prompted thousands to flee to Armenia.

Russia again claimed a ceasefire last week, but events in recent days have demonstrated Moscow’s spectacular failure to live up to its peacekeeping role. Moscow was unable to stop Azerbaijan’s military operation, protect Armenians living in the region or enforce the terms of the 2020 ceasefire, which called for the maintenance of the highway linking Stepanakert and Armenia. The highway, known as the Lachine Corridor, has been closed for nearly a year and has been closed since mid-June.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday criticized suggestions that Russian peacekeepers had failed in their mission. “We understand the emotional intensity of this moment, but we clearly do not agree with the attempt to place the blame on Russia, and in particular on Russian peacekeepers, who are showing true bravery, and doing their duty. are performing according to the mandate. place,” Peskov said.

He insisted that “Armenia is a nation close to us” and pledged to continue dialogue with Yerevan.

But other nations seem ready for human destruction.

More than 6,650 Armenians have left Nagorno-Karabakh since Sunday, and thousands more want to leave, according to Armenian officials. Residents are scrambling for fuel and roads are dead.

Refugees fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh are arriving in Armenia.

Two senior US officials – Samantha Power, head of the US Agency for International Development, and Yuri Kim, acting assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs – met with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Yerevan on Monday.

Pashinyan warned Power that the ethnic cleansing of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenians “is happening right now, and it’s a very tragic reality.”

He said that we tried to inform the international community that this ethnic cleansing was going to happen but unfortunately we failed to stop it.

The US visit comes as Pashinyan has shifted Yerevan’s foreign policy from Russia to the West, amid anger in Armenia that Russia – a longtime key security partner of Armenia – last week’s new It failed to stop the attacks or effectively halt Azerbaijan’s nine-month blockade of the Lachen Corridor, which led to crises including food shortages.

Baku’s success in its military operation last week marked a major shift in the strategic and fragile South Caucasus region, which runs through key oil and gas pipelines, where Russia, Turkey and the West all have influence and leverage. Fight to lift.

Azerbaijan and Armenia have fought two wars over Nagorno-Karabakh, the first in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when Armenia annexed Nagorno-Karabakh and several other territories in Azerbaijan, a humiliating defeat for Baku. I displaced more than half a million Azerbaijanis. . In the 44-day war in 2020, Azerbaijan reclaimed most of its lost territory.

Moscow and Yerevan have been engaged in mutual sanctions since last week’s military operation, which Russian officials claim was launched after Pashinyan recognized earlier this year that Nagorno-Karabakh was part of Azerbaijan.

In a televised address on Sunday, Pashinyan sharply criticized the Russia- and Moscow-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization, a regional security bloc that has refused to intervene in times of hostilities, attacking “security systems and those allies.” which we have depended on for many years.The outbreak occurred in 2020 and briefly last year.

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan explained.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Monday accused Pashinyan of “unacceptable attacks on Russia,” claiming he was “inspired by the West” and destructive to Armenia and its alliance with Russia.

US-Armenian military training exercises that ended last week and Pashinyan’s recent announcement that Armenia would accede to the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court have angered Moscow. The Hague-based court last year indicted Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes over the forced deportation of Ukrainian children during Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Power said the purpose of his visit Monday was to “reaffirm the strong support of the United States.” [and] to partner with Armenia and speak directly to those affected by the humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh,” in a post on social media after landing in Yerevan.

In his meeting with Pashinyan, he spoke of “Washington’s deep commitment to Armenia’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and democracy,” signaling Washington’s support for Armenia as it hosts a large number of displaced people. Facing the arrival, and facing the final loss of Nagorno-Karabakh. A region that holds immense political, cultural and emotional significance for Armenians.

“But during this visit, of course, our focus is on the specific crisis, the humanitarian needs of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh,” Power said, adding that the U.S. would direct resources to the government to provide shelter and assistance to those people. . leaving the area, and “encouraging other countries to do the same.”

Power also said the U.S. would work with Armenia and Azerbaijan “to achieve lasting peace between the countries, while also considering the profound economic benefits and stability this would bring to the Armenian people.” ” Such a peace has long proved unworkable between the two countries, which regard each other as mortal enemies.

Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev are scheduled to meet for talks in Granada, Spain on October 5.

Aliyev’s grandiose claims of victory last week and his boasting that his country had restored its territorial integrity with an “iron fist” have threatened the roughly 120,000 Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh once Baku took control. If it is taken over, it has caused the fear of genocide.

Analysts have warned that few Armenians are likely to live in Nagorno-Karabakh under Baku’s rule.

After last week’s military breakthrough, Aliyev is moving quickly to implement his terms, including disarming Nagorno-Karabakh’s army. He also announced last week that Azerbaijani government agencies would take over and reintegrate local Armenians as citizens of Azerbaijan, which he claimed would become a “paradise”. .

Azerbaijan says an agreement has been reached to stop fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh.

For days, angry citizens in Yerevan have protested against Russia and the Pashinyan government for what they see as a betrayal of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. According to Armenian media, at least 142 protesters were detained by the police.

Pashinyan initially claimed there was “no direct threat” to Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian population, but in a televised address on Sunday he said there was a threat of ethnic cleansing.

“If effective protection mechanisms are not put in place for Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians to live in their homes and to protect themselves from ethnic cleansing, there is a high probability that Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians will leave their homeland to save their lives and identities. The only way will understand. Too much increased,” he said.

He called on the international community to establish meaningful guarantees for the protection of the population, “but if these efforts do not yield concrete results, the government will welcome our sisters and brothers of Nagorno-Karabakh to the Republic of Armenia with caution.” “

According to Armenian media, Azerbaijani representatives met for the second time on Monday with members of the Nagorno-Karabakh government to discuss the region’s humanitarian needs, including energy and water supplies, and the search for those missing and killed in last week’s fighting.

Despite warnings of ethnic cleansing, the government of Nagorno-Karabakh urged residents not to panic and delay plans to leave, as there are long lines of gasoline and heavy traffic on the road to the nearest Armenian city, Gores.

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