The withdrawal of Armenians from Artsakh’s Lachin district, which buttressed the border with Armenia, completed the handover of Artsakh territories to Azerbaijan as envisioned in the November 9 agreement that ended the war, but created more complications for Armenia and Artsakh.
As was the case with the handover to Karvachar and Aghdam last week, the process was marred by inconsistencies and lack of information pitting long-time residents of the area against the Armenian government’s decision to vacate the land and hand it over to Azerbaijan.
Similar scenes of residents scrambling to gather their belongings and burning their homes played out on Monday in the area, with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev vowing to take control of all of Lachin, despite the agreement stressing that a five-kilometer stretch would reman under Armenian control and be manned by Russian peacekeepers.
There was more confusion in the town of Berdzor (formerly the city of Lachin) as conflicting instructions about the fate of the city caused more uncertainty for residents who have already been devastated by the war.
Berdzor Mayor Narek Alexanyan told Armenpress on Tuesday that many residents of the Berdzor have not left, but the Russian peacekeepers stationed there have urged them to take down the Artsakh flag.
“The Russian peacekeepers didn’t specify whether or not the Azeri armed forces would enter Berdzor. It’s possible that women and children have left the town due to safety concerns, but many have stayed. Regarding the rumors alleging that only 200 residents should remain in the town as service staff for the peacekeepers – I don’t have any information on this. Anyhow, right now the number of residents who stayed in Berdzor is a lot more than 200. I myself am in Berdzor,” Alexanyan told Armenpress.
“There was no clear instruction about whether Berdzor should be cleared out [by Armenians],” Aleksanyan emphasized to news. am on Tuesday.
According to the mayor, there are no Azerbaijani soldiers in Berdzor. He also said that residents of nearby Aghavno and Sus villages were facing the same uncertainty as the residents of Berdzor.
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s armed forces entered the Lachin district, while Russian peacekeepers are now stationed in Berdzor, while the local residents wait for further instructions.
The Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno Karabakh are monitoring the ceasefire and the situation on a 24/7-basis, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
“The peacekeepers are ensuring security of civilian vehicle traffic and movement of citizens through the Lachin corridor [connecting Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh], the shipment of foodstuffs and various goods and are escorting and ensuring security of repair crews, which are fulfilling the tasks on restoring infrastructure facilities,” the TASS news agency quoted the ministry as saying.