Authorities have told residents of the Aghavno village in Artsakh’s Berdzor (Lachin) region to evacuate by August 25 for an eventual hand over of the settlement to Azerbaijan.
The village, which is located on the Lachin corridor that connects Armenia to Artsakh, has been at a center of fraught discussions as construction on a new road connection began in Armenia, with Azerbaijan forcing—in this case through military aggression—Artsakh authorities to use a new road it has constructed by hiring Turkish contractors that bypasses the Lachin corridor.
Artsakh minister of territorial administration Hayk Khanumyan met with Aghavno residents on Friday at the village’s only school and informed the that they have until August 25 to evacuate the village. On behalf of the government, he also promised them that they would received 10 million drams ($24,000) to purchase new homes in Artsakh or in Armenia, according to Azatutyun.am.
Azerbaijani forces launched fresh and aggressive attacks on the line of contact in Berdzor—under the control of Russian peacekeepers—beginning on Monday, with the aggression escalating on Wednesday, when two soldiers were killed and 19 others were wounded, four of whom are in severe or critical condition. Russian’s Defense Ministry, for three consecutive days, blamed Azerbaijan for violating the ceasefire.
Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan announced on Tuesday that Azerbaijan had demanded, through the Russian peacekeeping contingent, that the existing corridor be immediately closed and urged Armenian to use a road that bypasses the Lachin corridor. That road has not been constructed yet, with Yerevan announcing late last month that construction was to begin in mid-August.
On Wednesday, during an emergency session of Artsakh’s National Security Council Harutyunyan said that there were “new” approaches being discussed to de-escalate the tensions that involved military components, as well as provisions directly tied to Berdzor. The same day, Artsakh’s Human Rights Defender Gegham Stepanyan, in a powerful message, implored the international community to act against ongoing aggression by Azerbaijan, which he said uses or threatens military attacks to force concession from Artsakh.
Aghavno is seen as the last Armenian bastion in Berdzor, which as part of the November 9, 2020 agreement is to fall under Azerbaijani control.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan told his cabinet on Thursday that the Nov. 9 agreement stipulated that Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan had until 2024 to devise a mutually agreed upon plan for the new Armenia-Karabakh highway. Such a plan has not been discussed or devised.
It took official Yerevan two days—and the deaths of two soldiers—to react to the fresh attacks by Azerbaijan. Armenia’s foreign ministry and later Pashinyan accused Azerbaijani officials of interpreting the agreements as it suited them and using military attacks to force their positions.
Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry, however, insisted that such a plan was agreed to earlier this and accused the Armenian side of dragging its feet. Then, as has been the case for almost two years, Baku took matters into its own hands and launched an offensive against Armenian positions in the area.
Official Baku admitted on Wednesday on having seized areas in Berdzor and said it had neutralized positions.
Khanumyan’s announcement on Friday had jarred Aghavno residents and left them scrambling as they have mere weeks to gather their belongings.
On Friday, residents of Berdzor blocked the road to the Lachin corridor, demanding not to surrender Berdzor and to give them clear guarantees.
They expressed their desire to talk to the head of the Russian peacekeepers. The police are obstructing the protest.
The mayor of Berdzor, Andranik Chavushyan, told 168.am that he intends to stay in Berdzor with his five children. “If need be the five of them will die here. We cannot be forced to be refugees forever.”
“He [Khanumyan[ said that the Azerbaijanis will come and the Russians will leave [the current corridor] on August 25,” Mariam Hakobyan, an Aghavno resident, told Azatutyun’s Armenian Service on Friday.
“The people [of Aghavno] look like they are hypnotized,” she said. “We don’t know what to do.”
Hakobyan said, who argued that the 10 million dram compensation was well below the current housing market prices.
“We have nowhere to go,” Anna Margarian, who lives in the town of Lachin with her family told Azatutyun.