The authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh have warned of looming shortages of critical supplies, after traffic along the Lachin Corridor connecting the region to Armenia was closed by Azerbaijan.
A source in the Azerbaijani military with knowledge of the matter told OC Media that all traffic had been blocked since Thursday, following a shooting at the Azerbaijani checkpoint at the entrance to the Lachin Corridor earlier that day.
The Red Cross also told local media in Armenia that Azerbaijani soldiers had blocked entry and exit of vehicles to the region since Thursday.
Nagorno-Karabakh has relied on supplies delivered by the Russian peacekeeping mission to the region and the Red Cross through the Lachin Corridor since December 2022, when it first came under blockade.
Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry said only that ‘relevant measures’ were being implemented ‘to investigate the causes of this provocation, to ensure the security of the border crossing point and the passage through it’.
They said it was ‘unacceptable’ to label such measures a blockade.
The announcement of shortages by Nagorno-Karabakh’s state minister came as the Red Cross said that 25 patients travelling to Armenian hospitals from Stepanakert were turned away from the Azerbaijani checkpoint.
Speaking in a Facebook livestream on Friday, State Minister Gurgen Nersisyan called on the region’s population to conserve fuel, food, and medicine.
‘Those who have received ration cards to buy fuel will not be able to use them for now’, said Nersisyan.
He added that agricultural production in the region would mitigate ‘the created problems’ to some extent, but warned that residents would still face shortages.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan condemned the blocking of humanitarian traffic through the Lachin Corridor in a speech in Armenia’s parliament on Friday, accusing Azerbaijan of continuing a ‘policy of ethnic cleansing in Nagorno-Karabakh’.
Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry responded to Pashinyan by dismissing the accusation, and stating that Baku would do everything to ‘integrate’ Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians into Azerbaijan’s ‘political, legal and socioeconomic frameworks’.
A full blockade
The latest blocking of the Lachin Corridor took place after one Armenian and one Azerbaijani border guard were wounded near the Lachin Corridor checkpoint on 15 June.
According to Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS), Armenian border guards took measures to prevent a group of Azerbaijani servicemen from advancing into Armenian territory and erecting an Azerbaijani flag. Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry said the border troops did not cross into Armenia while attempting to install the flag on the bridge over the River Hakari, at the entrance of the Lachin corridor.
The region started facing food shortages in December last year when Azerbaijani government-backed ‘eco-activists’ blocked the sole road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia.
Following the installation of the checkpoint in April, movement to and from the region appeared to become more active, with Nagorno-Karabakh residents able to cross the checkpoint accompanied by Russian peacekeepers.
According to officials in Nagorno-Karabakh, around 175 critically ill patients are currently unable to be moved to Armenian hospitals, while the region itself faces an ‘acute’ shortage of medicines.
The clash on the corridor came as tensions have mounted between Armenia and Azerbaijan, with both sides accusing each other of ceasefire violations almost daily, and a few weeks after Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev appeared to offer authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh an ultimatum to surrender.
Yerevan has repeatedly accused Baku of preparing for a military escalation.
Additional reporting by Ismi Aghayev.
For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.