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Nagorno-Karabakh: 'Republic' to be dissolved by January 2024

Published September 28, 2023last updated September 29, 2023

The breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh will cease to exist by January 1, 2024, the self-declared government of the unrecognized republic announced after it was recaptured by Baku.

Ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh ride a truck on their way to Kornidzor in Syunik region, Armenia, as thousands flee the region after Baku took control last week
More than 60,000 people or half of Nagorno-Karabakh's residents have fled to ArmeniaImage: Stepan Poghosyan/Photolure photo/AP Photo/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

Nagorno-Karabakh's separatist President Samvel Shakhramanyan signed a decree declaring that the unrecognized republic will cease to exist by January 1, 2024.

Ethnic Armenian fighters last week agreed to dismantle its force and lay down weapons after Baku retook control of the territory. 

Tens of thousands of Armenians have already fled the enclave, seeking shelter in Armenia.

Here are the main headlines concerning Nagorno-Karabakh on Thursday, September 28:

Skip next section Azerbaijan 'lied' about Armenian's choosing to leave — Serj Tankian
September 29, 2023

Azerbaijan 'lied' about Armenian's choosing to leave — Serj Tankian

DW spoke to Serj Tankian, an Armenian-American activist and singer of the well-known band System Of A Down, who has been advocating for ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Tankian told DW that Azerbaijan's actions of last week were a surprise due to the assurances Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev had given, not to resort to military action in Nagorno-Karabakh.

"It was suprising because the EU and the US and many partners of Armenia were confident that Azerbaijan's dictator Aliyev was promising not to do a full military assault on the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, but he lied."

Tankian said Azerbaijan was lying when it said ethnic Armenians had some form of choice when it came to deciding to leave their homes — following the military action launched by Baku — and labeled it "insulting."

"And now they're lying and saying that people are leaving of their own will as if, for thousands of years, you live in your indigenous homeland and you're going to leave your house behind, your belongings behind, everything that you own, your businesses behind and just flee for no reason, it's insulting," Tankian said.

Ethnic Armenians flee Nagorno-Karabakh

Skip next section Thousands of refugees continue arriving in Goris — DW correspondent
September 28, 2023

Thousands of refugees continue arriving in Goris — DW correspondent

DW's Maria Katamadze is in Goris — situated around 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the border with Azerbaijan — and has noted a growing number of ethnic Armenians, fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh.

Goris is the first nearby city refugees reach on their way out of the region, and some shared the hardships they have encountered.

"We spent 3 days in traffic, it was a difficult road. It was a difficult moment for us to leave our town and our home," said one of refugee who arrived in Goris.

"In three years, I lost two homes. My four minor children have heard so many barrages and missiles; they cried so much — it affected them psychologically. I just wish my kids had a safe place and went to school like other kids," another refugee told Katamadze.

City authorities reported that thousands were arriving at the Goris Theatre, where they were being registered and where medical and psychological care was being provided by volunteers along with international organizations.

"The most pressing thing seems to be accommodation. It’s just an overwhelming amount of people. So, the country as a system was not really ready to take in so many people," volunteer Karen Jansiziyan told DW.


Skip next section Azerbaijan invites fleeing Armenians to become part of its 'multi-ethnic society'
September 28, 2023

Azerbaijan invites fleeing Armenians to become part of its 'multi-ethnic society'

Azerbaijan said it wanted ethnic Armenians to remain in Nagorno-Karabakh.

"We call on Armenian residents not to leave their homes and become part of Azerbaijan's multi-ethnic society," the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said.

It comes as more than half of the region's population fled to Armenia since Azerbaijan lifted a nine-month blockade against the region on Sunday.

Azerbaijan took back control of Nagorno-Karabakh last week in a military operation.

It said if people in the region "do not want to live and obey Azerbaijan's legislation and rule, we cannot force them to do so," adding it had "nothing to do with forced relocation."

Skip next section Former Nagorno-Karabakh's leader's right must be respected says UN
September 28, 2023

Former Nagorno-Karabakh's leader's right must be respected says UN

The United Nations called for the rights of former Nagorno-Karabakh separatist leader Ruben Vardanyan to be respected.

It comes after an Azerbaijan court placed him in pre-trial detention.

He was arrested on Wednesday as he tried to cross into Armenia.

Azerbaijan's state security service said he was charged with financing terrorism and illegally crossing the Azerbaijani border last year.

"We call on the authorities to take all steps to ensure respect for due process and fair trial rights as required by international human rights law," the UN rights office said in an email sent to the AFP news agency.

If found guilty, Vardanyan could be jailed for up to 14 years.

Skip next section Russia has 'taken notice' of Nagorno-Karabakh's dissolution
September 28, 2023

Russia has 'taken notice' of Nagorno-Karabakh's dissolution

The Kremlin noted that the self-declared government of Nagorno-Karabakh announced that it would dissolve itself.

Russian peacekeepers are deployed in the ethnic Armenian region that Azerbaijan retook last week.

"We have taken notice of this and are closely monitoring the situation. Our peacekeepers continue to assist people," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.

Armenia said more than 68,000 of the region's 120,000-strong population had left by Thursday midday. 

Peskov, disregarding allegations by Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of "ethnic cleansing" in the region said it was "difficult to say who is to blame" for the exodus.

"There is no direct reason for such actions," he said. 

Skip next section Armenian authorities, refugees 'face huge challenge'
September 28, 2023

Armenian authorities, refugees 'face huge challenge'

In an interview with DW, Olesya Vartanyan of the International Crisis Group says refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh face the challenge of starting anew in a place "very distinct" from where they used to live, while Armenian authorities, already struggling just to register tens of thousands of people, must find a way to integrate them.

Armenian authorities, refugees 'face huge challenge'

Skip next section Armenian PM urges world leaders to do more in face of 'ethnic cleansing'
September 28, 2023

Armenian PM urges world leaders to do more in face of 'ethnic cleansing'

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan urged the world to pay heed to what he called "ethnic cleansing" in the region.

"If the condemnation [by the international community] is not followed by adequate political and legal decisions, then these condemnations become acts of agreement with what is happening," Pashinyan told members of his cabinet.

He said failure to act to protect the people of the enclave would amount to complicity against the plight of those forced to flee their homes.

EU leaders urged the protection of civilians in a statement Tuesday, saying it was critical for international groups to have access to the enclave and transparency "on Baku's vision for Karabakh Armenians' future in Azerbaijan."

Samantha Power, the head of the US Agency for International Development, also said Tuesday that Washington will provide $11.5 million (€10.9 million) in humanitarian assistance to Armenian civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Skip next section Armenia says more than half of Nagorno-Karabakh population fled
September 28, 2023

Armenia says more than half of Nagorno-Karabakh population fled

Armenia says more than 65,000 people have left the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave within Azerbaijan — more than half of the region's estimated 120,000-strong population.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said all ethnic Armenians would leave the region "in the coming days." 

Ethnic Armenians have been living in the enclave for centuries.

"This is an act of ethnic cleansing of which we were warning the international community about for a long time," said Pashinyan.

Nagorno-Karabakh was officially recognized as being part of Azerbaijan since the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991. No country, including Armenia, recognized the self-declared republic's independence.

Armenian separatists had been in control of the region since a war in the 1990s that claimed tens of thousands of lives. 

Half the population of Nagorno-Karabakh flees

Skip next section Former leader of region charged with financing terrorism
September 28, 2023

Former leader of region charged with financing terrorism

Azerbaijan charged the former head of Nagorno-Karabakh's separatist government with financing terrorism.

Ruben Vardanyan, who formerly led the government of the self-declared republic, was arrested on Wednesday.

Ruben Vardanyan detained by Azerbaijani security officers on September 27
Ruben Vardanyan detained by Azerbaijani security officers on September 27Image: State Border Service of Azerbaijan/Handout/AFP

Vardanyan was accused of illegally crossing the Azerbaijani border, creating illegal armed formations and financing terrorism and was placed in pre-trial detention.

The billionaire, who made his wealth in Russia, was arrested while trying to enter Armenia on Wednesday morning and was subsequently taken to the Azerbaijani capital Baku.

He had moved to Nagorno-Karabakh in 2022 where he served as the head of the self-declared republic for several months, before stepping down earlier in 2023.

Skip next section Nagorno-Karabakh to dissolve itself
September 28, 2023

Nagorno-Karabakh to dissolve itself

The self-declared government of Nagorno-Karabakh announced that it will dissolve itself and the unrecognized republic will cease to exist by January 1 2024.

A decree to that effect was signed by the region's separatist President Samvel Shakhramanyan.

The document cited an agreement reached last week to end the fighting under which Azerbaijan will allow the "free, voluntary and unhindered movement" of the region's residents and disarm ethnic Armenia troops in the enclave in exchange.

Nagorno-Karabakh was recaptured by Azerbaijan after a lightning military offensive last week that forced ethnic Armenian fighters of the region to lay down weapons.

The region is internationally recognized as Azerbaijani territory, but Armenia and Azerbaijan have long fought over it.

The two, both former Soviet republics, went to war over the region between 1988 and 1994 as Armenians in the region sought to break away from the newly independent nation of Azerbaijan. 

Armenian fighters won the first war that ended in 1994. But during a six-week war in 2020, Azerbaijan ended that control and Baku retook most of the region. 

Nagorno-Karabakh to dissolve self-proclaimed republic

rm/ab (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)