An explosion at a fuel storage depot in Nagorno-Karabakh has left at least 20 people dead and nearly 300 others injured. The incident comes on the heels of Azerbaijani military forces recently regaining control of Nagorno-Karabakh. The seizure led to a mass exodus of ethnic Armenians.
The death toll from the explosion will likely rise as many individuals remain missing.
The blast occurred in close proximity to Stepanakert, the regional capital. The cause of the explosion is still unknown. Amid this crisis, Armenian officials dispatched a medical helicopter team from Yerevan to aid in the treatment and evacuation of the injured.
The explosion left buildings and structures in ruins.
It occurred against the backdrop of severe shortages and a rapidly changing geopolitical landscape. Victims were waiting for promised fuel, which had become scarce due to a 10-month blockade imposed by Azerbaijan. The region was already grappling with dire shortages of food and water.
The Azerbaijani military’s rapid offensive defeated Armenian forces within 24 hours.
It led to separatist authorities agreeing to disarm and engage in talks for Nagorno-Karabakh’s reintegration into Azerbaijan after three decades of separatist rule.
Azerbaijan pledged to respect the rights of ethnic Armenians and restore supplies after the blockade. However, many residents remained concerned about possible reprisals, leading them to choose to leave for Armenia.
The Armenian government reported that over 13,550 residents of Nagorno-Karabakh had fled to Armenia by Tuesday morning, with Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh assisting in the evacuation efforts. On Monday night, approximately 700 people were still in the peacekeepers’ camp.
The explosion occurred immediately after the second round of talks between Azerbaijani officials and separatist representatives took place in Khojaly, located north of the Nagorno-Karabakh capital.
Azerbaijan’s presidential office reported that the talks between Azerbaijani officials and separatist representatives were conducted in a constructive atmosphere. The discussions primarily centred around humanitarian aid and medical services for the region.
In a separate development, Azerbaijan’s defence ministry reported the deaths of two soldiers on Monday. The soldiers lost their lives when a military truck hit a landmine.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, in an address to the nation on Sunday, emphasised efforts to collaborate with international partners to protect the rights and security of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.
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