Tbilisi, Sep 24 (EFE).- The first group of refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh arrived in Armenia on Sunday, local officials said, after Azerbaijan reclaimed control of the breakaway region in a swift military offensive last week.
The Armenian government said Russian peacekeeping forces escorted the Karabakh refugees after the reopening of the Lachin corridor, which had been blocked by Azerbaijan for over 10 months.
According to an official statement, 377 Karabakhs arrived in Armenian territory, of which 98 will receive housing from the Armenian state.
To provide immediate support, Armenian authorities have established a humanitarian aid center in Kornidzor town, located in the Siunik region.
Russian peacekeepers have played a crucial role in facilitating the transportation of 102 children and supplies totaling approximately 125 tons of food and 65 tons of fuel for Nagorno-Karabakh residents.
Earlier, the authorities in disputed region announced the urgent evacuation of Armenians amid mounting ethnic cleansing fears.
In a press statement, the government of the unrecognized republic disclosed that families left homeless due to the military actions and those who wished to leave were being relocated to Armenia.
The statement said officials would provide information about the relocation of other groups in the near future. Some 120,000 people live in Karabakh.
The International Committee of the Red Cross reported Saturday that it successfully delivered 70 tons of humanitarian aid to the region through the Lachin corridor, which was blocked by Azerbaijan since the end of 2022.
Both Armenia and the Western nations had repeatedly called for unblocking the Lachin corridor to ensure that essential supplies could reach the Karabakhs.
On Sunday, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said the arrival of humanitarian shipments “does not change the situation,” as the Armenians of Karabakh “continue to face the danger of ethnic cleansing.”
“If real living conditions are not created for the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh in their homes and effective mechanisms of protection against ethnic cleansing, then the likelihood is increasing that the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh will see expulsion from their homeland as the only way out.”
He said his country “will lovingly welcome our brothers and sisters from Nagorno-Karabakh,” if needed.
On Saturday, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev insisted they would uphold cultural, religious, and educational rights of the Karabakhs.
The president said Baku presented its plans for integrating the mountainous region in first meeting between Azerbaijani and Karabakh representatives on Thursday.
The region proclaimed its independence in 1991, but the international community never recognized it and considered it a legitimate part of Azerbaijan.
The Azerbaijani Interior Ministry said Sunday it would guarantee the safe passage of Armenian fighters who have surrendered their weapons. EFE