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Nagorno-Karabakh government will dissolve, half the Armenian population flee in terror from Azerbaijani rule

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The unrecognised government of Nagorno-Karabakh, which de fact ruled the historically and ethnically Armenian region since the early 1990’s, announced on Thursday that it will dissolve itself on January 1, 2023.

The announcement comes as more than half of the population has already fled, not wanting to live under Azerbaijan’s dictatorship of Ilham Aliyev.

Indigenous Armenians began fleeing after Azerbaijan carried out a lightning offensive to reclaim full control over the region and demanded that Armenian troops in Nagorno-Karabakh lay down their weapons and the government dissolve itself.

A decree to that effect was signed by the Nagorno-Karabakh’s President Samvel Shakhramanyan, AP reported.

The document cited an agreement reached last week to end the fighting under which Azerbaijan will allow the “free, voluntary and unhindered movement” of Nagorno-Karabakh residents and disarm troops in Armenia in exchange.

Nagorno-Karabakh is a region internationally recognised as a part of Azerbaijan but that came under the control of ethnic Armenian forces, backed by the Armenian military, in fighting once again started by Azerbaijan but that ended in 1994.

During a six-week war in 2020, Azerbaijan took back parts of the region along with surrounding territory that Armenian forces had controlled during the earlier conflict.

Azerbaijan says it has detained the former head of Nagorno-Karabakh’s government as he tried to cross into Armenia following Azerbaijan’s 24-hour blitz. The arrest of Ruben Vardanyan was announced by Azerbaijan’s border guard service.

Following the latest offensive and a cease-fire agreement brokered by Russian peacekeepers, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh’s authorities have begun talks on “reintegrating” the region back into Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijani authorities have pledged to respect the rights of ethnic Armenians in the region and restore supplies after a 10-month blockade.

Many local residents, however, fear reprisals and have decided to leave for Armenia, especially as Azerbaijan’s suppression of other ethnic minorities, such as the Talysh, are well noted.

By Thursday morning, more than half of Nagorno-Karabakh’s population — over 65,000 people — had fled to Armenia, according to Armenian officials.

The massive exodus began on Sunday evening, and the only road linking Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia quickly filled up with cars that created an hours-long traffic jam.

On Monday night, a fuel reservoir exploded at a gas station where people seeking to leave were lining up for gas that due to the blockade had been in short supply. At least 68 people were killed and nearly 300 injured, with over 100 more still considered missing.

It is not immediately clear if any of the indigenous Armenians that populate the region will remain there.

Shakhramayan’s decree urged Nagorno-Karabakh’s population — including those who left — “to familiarise themselves with the conditions of reintegration offered by the Republic of Azerbaijan, in order to then make an individual decision about the possibility of staying in (or returning to) Nagorno-Karabakh.”

READ MORE: The USA and Russia want the “Zangezur corridor” but there can only be one “winner” while Armenians continue to suffer.

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