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Nagorno-Karabakh: Nearly half of ethnic Armenians flee

Published September 27, 2023last updated September 27, 2023

Yerevan said more than 50,000 ethnic Armenians have fled in fear of reprisal from Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, Germany and the US are pushing to get independent observers into the breakaway region. DW has the latest.

A woman and four children, ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh, walk along the road from Nagorno-Karabakh to Kornidzor in Armenia.
Tens of thousand of people have left Nagorno-Karabakh for Armenia in the past daysImage: Vasily Krestyaninov/AP Photo/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

The Armenian government said at least 53,000 ethnic Armenians fled Nagorno-Karabakh since Azerbaijan's operation last week to take control of the breakaway region. 

Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Wednesday called on Azerbaijan to allow international observers into Nagorno-Karabakh, to show Baku's commitment to protecting the people living there.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has also underlined the need for international observers and humanitarian aid in the region in a talk with Azerbaijan's President Aliyev, Washington says.

Azerbaijan claimed full control over Nagorno-Karabakh last week in the operation in which it says 192 of its troops were killed.

Here are the main headlines concerning Nagorno-Karabakh on Wednesday, September 27:

Skip next section Nearly half of ethnic Armenian population flees
September 27, 2023

Nearly half of ethnic Armenian population flees

More than 53,000 people, or about 45% of Nagorno-Karabakh's population of 120,000, had left the region for Armenia as of nightfall Wednesday, Armenian authorities said.

The mountain road leading out of Nagrono-Karabakh towards Armenia has been clogged for days, as people continue to flee the region. Many have reportedly slept in their cars and sought to keep warm as they were stuck in the jam.

The journey of just 77 kilometers (48 miles) to the border was reportedly taking at least 30 hours to complete.

Skip next section USAID chief to discuss humanitarian situation in Azerbaijan visit
September 27, 2023

USAID chief to discuss humanitarian situation in Azerbaijan visit

Senior White House officials arrived in Azerbaijan as a humanitarian crisis and an exodus of tens of thousands of people unfold. 

US Agency for International Development (USAID) chief Samantha Power and US State Department Acting Assistant Secretary for Europe and Eurasian Affairs Yuri Kim are expected to discuss the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and the importance of Azerbaijan following through with its commitments in a meeting with President Ilham Aliyev. 

Power "will also address the prospects for a durable and dignified peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia, based on mutual respect for each others’ territorial integrity and sovereignty," USAID said in a statement. 

Power visited Armenia earlier this week, where she vowed that Washington would stand in solidarity with Armenia, adding that it was essential for the international community to gain access to Nagorno-Karabakh to assess reports of unknown numbers of people being injured and requiring evacuation, or lacking food and other essentials. 

Skip next section Nagorno-Karabakh former separatist leader arrested, Baku says
September 27, 2023

Nagorno-Karabakh former separatist leader arrested, Baku says

Azerbaijan's border guard service said on Wednesday it had arrested the former leader of Nagorno-Karabakh's separatist movement.

Ruben Vardanyan, a billionaire businessman and philanthropist of Armenian descent, was taken to Azerbaijan's capital, Baku, authorities said.

His wife wrote on social media that he had been arrested while trying to flee Nagorno-Karabakh "with thousands of Armenians."

Vardanyan took the helm of the separatist movement in November last year after renouncing his Russian citizenship and moving to Nagorno-Karabakh. He stepped down in February 2023.

His arrest is seen as confirmation of Azerbaijan's approach to swiftly enforce its control over the territory after last week's military operations.

Skip next section Armenia says more than 47,000 refugees came from Nagorno-Karabakh
September 27, 2023

Armenia says more than 47,000 refugees came from Nagorno-Karabakh

Armenian authorities say around 47,115 people have arrived from Nagorno-Karabakh since last week. Officials later increased the total to over 50,000 people later on Wednesday.

This would represent a third of all ethnic Armenians in the region that was reclaimed by Azerbaijan after a military offensive last week.

The figures have not been independently verified, but thousands of people have fled the region over the past days.

Separatist authorities have warned Armenians in the region could face ethnic cleansing after Azerbaijan retook control.

Baku has denied these claims and said it was seeking "peaceful reintegration" of the former breakaway territory.

'It's no surprise that Armenians fled,' researcher says

Skip next section Azerbaijan says 192 troops killed in last week's operation
September 27, 2023

Azerbaijan says 192 troops killed in last week's operation

Azerbaijan's Health Ministry said 192 Azerbaijani troops were killed and over 500 wounded in last weeks military offensive to retake Nagorno-Karabakh.

Separatist Nagorno-Karabakh officials earlier claimed at least 200 casualties on their side, including 10 civilians and 400 were wounded.

Last week's operation led to Azerbaijan reclaiming control of the Armenian-majority territory that had been run by separatists for around 30 years. Home to about 120,000 ethnic Armenians, Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.

Tens of thousands of have already fled the region to Armenia, and the numbers are likely to go up after Azerbaijan has lifted its blockade of the roads between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.

Skip next section Germany, US push for international observers and humanitarian aid
September 27, 2023

Germany, US push for international observers and humanitarian aid

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called on the government of Azerbaijan to let independent observers into the region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

In a statement on Wednesday, Baerbock said Germany and its partners were "working hard to send observers as soon as possible," and that Germany would increase its humanitarian aid from €2 million to €5 million ($ 5.2 million).

She said allowing an international observer mission would be "proof of confidence" that Baku was committed to the "security and wellbeing" of the people in the region.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has also underlined the need for an international mission when speaking to Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev on Tuesday. Blinken further urged Aliyev to "refrain from further hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh and provide unhindered humanitarian access."

Nagorno-Karabakh has been under blockade by Azerbaijan for several months, before Baku reclaimed control over the breakaway region last week and promised to guarantee ethnic Armenians' rights.

But thousands have fled over the past days, as basic necessities are lacking and many fear reprisal from Azerbaijani forces.

Ethnic Armenian exodus from Nagorno-Karabakh swells

fg/fb (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)