On the phone, Nina insisted: “There’s a little bit of a positive. Since gas was cut off in Nagorno-Karabakh, the 22-year-old English teacher said she enjoyed the slow-motion conviviality of evenings in front of a wood-burning stove, despite the cold temperatures in the Caucasus mountains. Still looking for a little warmth. Her neighbor gave her milk and eggs. When the power goes out, she and her loved ones play lotto and board games. His father told him that it all reminded him of his youth in the Soviet Union.
Nagorno-Karabakh has been isolated from the world for almost two months. Until Dec. 12, 2022, a winding road, known as the Lachin Corridor, still connects Armenia to the separatist region that officially belongs to Azerbaijan but is inhabited and administered by its ethnic Armenians since the 1990s. The single track has now been closed since Azerbaijani citizens posing as “eco-activists” set up camp there, although the presence of Russian peacekeepers was supposed to ensure freedom of movement. The very severe blockade for the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh, who are very dependent on food and basic necessities imported from Armenia, has been further exacerbated by gas and electricity outages.
“A full-scale food crisis”
“Shops have been completely empty since New Yearssaid Nina. Two weeks ago, the authorities gave us ration coupons for rice, oil, sugar, buckwheat and pasta, but we had to make do with the rest, bartering. » Like her, the residents of the village are better off, thanks to their livestock and canned vegetables every summer for the long winter.
The situation is even more difficult for urban dwellers. In Stepanakert, the capital of the “Republic of Artsakh” (another name for the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh region), markets have been closed for weeks. Gasoline shortages complicate all travel. According to the authorities, nearly one in five workers lost their jobs due to the lockdown. Heating has become a constant concern on icy building floors, and many buildings have reinstalled wood stoves despite the risk of fire or poisoning.
“We shiver all day, we sleep with our coats on”, Mary Asatrian, 26, is an employee of the Office of the Nagorno-Karabakh Ombudsman (Human Rights Defender). After Armenia was defeated in a war with Azerbaijan in autumn 2020, the young woman from Moscow settled there, driven by a desire to help what is considered a historic bastion of Armenian identity. The clashes then led to Russia deploying an intervention force and returning to Baku in most of Nagorno-Karabakh.
“We are on the brink of starvationThe young woman asserted that her work included traveling the area to document human rights abuses. Rationing tickets are not enough. In the villages, people had to kill their animals to feed themselves. Even baking bread was complicated by the lack of gas and electricity. »
Hygiene supplies are also lacking, be it shampoo or toilet paper. In terms of medicines, the ICRC, the only organization authorized to shuttle with Armenia, has insufficient supplies to meet all needs. “This is a full-scale humanitarian crisis, orchestrated by Azerbaijan. »
“The feeling of being in “Squid Game””
The blockade began in December, just after tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan had peaked since the November 2020 deal to end the fighting. Much of this rigidity stems from the lack of progress in ongoing negotiations since the end of the war that were supposed to lead to a formal peace treaty.
In September 2022, fighting resumed in Azerbaijan, killing more than 300 people in three days. Many observers see this as a way for Baku to pressure Armenia to accept its terms, in particular the creation of a land corridor linking Azerbaijan with its enclave of Nakhchivan.
But for Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, the primary purpose of the blockade is to force them to leave by smothering the region. “Their goal is ethnic cleansing of Nagorno-Karabakh,” Mary Asatrian quoted Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian as saying. “Even when the lockdown ends, other things are to be expected. This is the reality we live in now. »
joiner the crossArmen Mangasarian, Minister of Social Affairs of the Republic of Artsakh, warned “Declaration of a humanitarian catastrophe” And called on the international community to exert more pressure on Azerbaijan.Despite dark horizon, he’s not afraid of exodus, assures Azerbaijanis “born (this) won’t force you to give up (Their) nation “.
However, Siranush Sargsian cried when asked. For several days, she could no longer bear the feeling of being the helpless object of an unhealthy experience every time the power went out or her gas went out. “I feel like I’m squid game… »
A history teacher who turned to journalism after the war, she recently published an article exploring the difficulties faced by women in Nagorno-Karabakh as they struggle to meet the needs of their young children. There are diapers, but I can’t find them anymore.There is also a sense of humiliation when leaving “hunting” look for food.
“I don’t know anyone who says they’re ready, but everybody asks themselves that question, did she sum it up. This is our home and we can’t imagine living anywhere else…but it’s not a place to raise children. »
Moscow in retreat
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s call to Russian President Vladimir Putin on January 31 Take measures “required” Help clear the Lachine corridor. The passivity of Russian intervention forces in the face of Azerbaijani plots has soured relations between the close partners of Russia and Armenia in recent months.
Talks started in May 2021 under Russian auspices to delineate and demarcate the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia. However, Moscow’s difficulty in invading Ukraine has brought Europe back to play an important role in the normalization process.
The European Union launched a civilian mission on January 23 to help monitor the unstable border between the two countries. The statement sparked ire from Russia, which accused Europe of coming to fuel geopolitical confrontation in the region.