Yerevan, Sep 26 (IANS) Amid fears of ethnic cleansing, thousands of ethnic Armenian refugees have fled Nagorno-Karabakh after Azerbaijan’s seizure of the disputed region last week.
Addressing reporters on Monday, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan warned that ethnic cleansing is “underway” in the region.
“That’s happening just now, and that is very unfortunate fact because we were trying to urge international community on that,” the BBC quoted Pashinyan as saying.
More than 6,500 people have so far crossed into Armenia from the enclave, which is home to a majority of some 120,000 ethnic Armenians.
They left after the government in Armenia announced plans to move those made homeless by the fighting.
In a statement on Sunday, the government in Yerevan said that hundreds of the refugees had already been provided with government-funded housing.
But it is yet to release a clear plan of how it would cope with an influx of people, reports the BBC.
Prime Minister Pashinyan announced last week that plans were in place to look after up to 40,000 refugees.
Nagorno-Karabakh – a mountainous region in the South Caucasus – is recognised internationally as part of Azerbaijan, but has been controlled by ethnic Armenians for three decades.
The enclave has been supported by Armenia – but also by their ally, Russia, which has had hundreds of soldiers there for years.
Five Russian peacekeepers were killed – alongside at least 200 ethnic Armenians and dozens of Azerbaijani soldiers – as Azerbaijan’s army swept in last week.
On Sunday, Azerbaijan’s Defence Ministry said it had confiscated more military equipment including a large number of rockets, artillery shells, mines and ammunition.
Despite Azerbaijan’s public reassurances, there are fears about the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh, with only one aid delivery of 70 tonnes of food having been allowed through since separatists accepted a ceasefire and agreed to disarm.