Some 42,500 people have arrived in Armenia as of Wednesday after fleeing Azerbaijani aggression in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, Euronews reported.
The refugees make up a third of the total population in the disputed territory that is officially part of Azerbaijan but was controlled by an ethnic Armenian government until the 2020 war. The region has been under an Azerbaijani blockade since 2022.
Armenian sources report at least 200 dead last week, after Azerbaijan launched what it calls a “counter-terrorism operation”. The lightning offensive originally affected six Armenian villages, raising concerns of ethnic cleansing.
At least 68 people were killed in a fuel depot explosion on Monday while waiting in line to fill their tanks so they could leave for Armenia. Istanbul-based Armenian newspaper Agos reported 290 injured in the attack, and 105 people remain unaccounted for. The explosion happened shortly after Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev promised to “guarantee” the rights of Armenians in the region.
Thousands of Karabakh Armenians have settled in a tent city near Khankendi, Agos said.
Armenian officials have provided shelter for 3,253 of the refugees in various cities, while many more await transport in Khankendi (Stepanakert), the de facto capital of the disputed region.
Agence France-Presse footage at the Armenian border shows that the refugees mostly comprise of children, women and the elderly.
One woman told AFP that the treatment they received was akin to “homeless dogs”.
“We start with nothing,” another woman who fled the region told USAID administrator Samantha Power.
Former Minister of State for the region Ruben Vardanyan’s wife announced that he had been arrested at the border by Azerbaijani authorities on Wednesday afternoon.
The US Agency of International Development (USAID) announced $11.5 million in humanitarian aid for civilians in the region, but faced criticism that the amount was too low. Power had met with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan earlier in the week when she relayed US support for Armenian “sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, and democracy”.
The US government has sent military aid to Azerbaijan and refused to enforce sanctions on the country despite calls from the Armenian community, while also not allocating aid to the region since the 2020 war, Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) said in a post calling out Power.
The Nubar Ozanyan Brigade, a Syrian Armenian military organisation under the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), condemned the attacks on Nagorno-Karabakh and accused Turkey of complicity in a statement released on Tuesday.
Azerbaijani soldiers in the region have been seen sporting on their uniforms badges of Enver Pasha, the Ottoman official considered to be the main brains behind the 1915 Armenian Genocide, the Brigade said. “This indicates something important, that the genocide against the Armenian people still continues.”
“Karabakh is Armenian, and will remain Armenian land as long as it exists,” they said.