Authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh have accused Azerbaijan of attempting to force patients being transferred to Armenia for treatment to be examined by their own doctors.
In an interview with Armenian Public TV on Thursday, the State Minister of Nagorno-Karabakh, Gurgen Nersisyan, said transfers had been halted as a result. He said that Azerbaijan was demanding that Red Cross vehicles be stopped to examine patients at the Azerbaijani checkpoint on the Lachin Corridor.
Nersisyan warned the process could involve stripping patients, while expressing concerns that this may be filmed by the Azerbaijani side.
‘These are conditions that are directed against the dignity of our citizens, putting them in an uncomfortable situation. And how do you imagine our citizens undergoing a medical examination by the Azerbaijanis under these conditions?’.
Nersisyan argued that Azerbaijan’s actions aimed to make the Red Cross’s mission to transfer patients requiring urgent treatment and bringing in medical supplies ‘impossible’.
Since an Azerbaijani checkpoint was installed on the Lachin Corridor in April, and before that, as the corridor was blocked by Azerbaijani-government-backed protesters from December, only the Red Cross and Russian peacekeeping force have been able to enter the region from Armenia.
Access for the Red Cross has been halted twice since 15 June, being restored for the second time on 14 July.
The Russian peacekeeping mission, which had been bringing in crucial supplies including food and fuel to Nagorno-Karabakh since December, has also been barred by Azerbaijan from using the Lachin Corridor since 15 June.
According to the 2020 ceasefire agreement, the corridor, the only route connecting Nagrono-Karabakh with Armenia and the rest of the world, was meant to be controlled by the Russian peacekeeping mission.
During his interview, the State Minister said that problems with healthcare and medical and food shortages were becoming more critical every day due to the Corridor’s closure.
‘Over 90% of pregnant women have anemia’, he said, adding that the number of miscarriages had doubled since the blockade began.
Before December 2022, Nagorno-Karabakh received over 90% of its supplies from Armenia.
Nersisyan said that the Azerbaijani side was also hindering agricultural production with ceasefire violations.
Azerbaijan has denied that there is a humanitarian crisis in the region. However, the country has offered to supply Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijani-controlled Aghdam, an offer rejected by Nagorno-Karabakh.
Along with the ongoing energy and food crisis, the authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh have also warned of an imminent sanitary crisis, as the lack of fuel has resulted in the suspension of waste collection.
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.