Masis/Artasgat, Armenia (Dagbladet): – They said they would protect us, but they left us in a lurch, says Davit Davitjan.
– We felt very safe when the Russians came after the peace agreement in 2020. No one would have imagined that things would end as they are now, says his mother, Nora Gasparyan.
As Armenia fills with refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh, anger against Vladimir Putin and Russia is spreading.
For Nora, Davit, his wife Diana, and their two-year-old daughter, Maryam, three beds at the Artashat refugee reception center outside the Armenian capital, Yerevan, have become home.
All belongings are distributed between two bags next to the beds.
More than 100,000 Armenians fled Nagorno-Karabakh within a few days, after Azerbaijan launched a lightning attack against Armenian autonomous authorities in the region.
Tens of thousands of refugees have been left homeless, living in limbo in refugee reception and registration offices spread across Armenia.
Volunteers and local authorities are working hard to find temporary housing for the refugees.
Before the exodus, Nagorno-Karabakh was cut off from the outside world in a nine-month siege of the country’s only supply route.
The same narrow road was completely crowded when all the residents fled in a short week. Conditions on the road are described as unbearable.
Thirsty, tired, afraid and hungry, the family boarded a bus from Stepanakert on their way to Armenia. The trip took two days.
“We were terrified the whole way,” says Davitt.
– He saw people dying
In Masis, 20 minutes away, new arrivals are registered with local authorities. They must then be distributed to temporary housing.
Here, Dagbladet meets 77-year-old Alexander Magakalcan and his son Aristron Magakalcan (48). Alexander’s wife, Aristron’s mother, is disabled and has no legs. Aristron is blind.
– I helped my disabled wife get into the car. Then we traveled. It took three days, Alexander Magakaljan tells Dagbladet.
The 77-year-old burst into tears several times as he told of the nightmarish journey from Stepanakert in Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia.
-We saw people dying on the road. We saw women, children and pregnant women sitting on the plane on trucks.
Arstrun Maghakeljan is most concerned with political dividing lines. He holds the Kremlin highly responsible for what happened.
-Creating the problem
Armenia views Vladimir Putin and Russia as a guarantor of security in the region and a close ally.
– Russians can never be peacemakers. They have been involved in the conflict from the beginning. In fact, they are the ones who created this problem, Aristron says.
– Putin can never be considered an ally of the Armenians. Especially those who live in Nagorno-Karabakh. When the peace agreement was signed, parts of Nagorno-Karabakh were ceded without any opposition to Azerbaijan. It was Putin himself who developed this agreement.
The two families left everything they owned for the second time, and were forced to leave their hometown for Stepanakert in 2020 when war broke out again in the region.
Thousands of lives were lost in the war, which ended in a truce negotiated by the Russians.
However, Azerbaijan took full control of the region in a lightning attack on September 19. One day later, Azerbaijan declared full control over the region.
This happened after a nine-month siege of the Lachin Corridor, the only road linking Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
The siege led to the suffocation of food and medicine for about 120,000 Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. No one was allowed to travel inside or outside the region.
Following the ceasefire agreement negotiated by Putin in 2020, Russia deployed 2,000 peacekeepers to the region. But on September 19, Azerbaijan attacked the Armenian autonomous authorities, in what Azerbaijan itself refers to as an anti-terrorism operation.
After 24 hours, the military forces of the Armenian autonomous authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh laid down their weapons. They have dissolved themselves, and will cease to exist on January 1, 2024.
At freezing point
The flow of refugees along the only road between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia has been steady since September 24. On October 2, the last minibus carrying evacuated civilians crossed into Armenia.
At the same time, the political distance between Armenia and Russia is growing. The country’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan commented on several occasions in September that Russia was no longer a security guarantor for Armenia.
The Kremlin, for its part, responded with clear warnings against the former Soviet republic.
Nor has the relationship improved since Armenia ratified the Rome Treaty on Tuesday. It obliges the state, in theory, to arrest Vladimir Putin under the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court in The Hague against him – if he sets foot on Armenian territory.
-He wants to go home
As of October 2, just under half of the refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh have been resettled in temporary shelters, according to Armenian authorities.
For the Davitjan family, it’s not entirely clear where their next home will be.
Diana says their hope is to stay in the area around Artashgat, and not have to move far. But from what they’ve been told, it’s now completely full.
They didn’t have a chance to think anymore.
– All hope is gone, and everyone is sad. It’s hard to think about the future. We left everything behind. “We just want to go home,” she says.
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