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Thousands rally in Nagorno-Karabakh to protest land blockade

#Thousands #rally #NagornoKarabakh #protest #land #blockade

Thousands rallied on Sunday in Azerbaijan, in the Nagorno-Karabakh region’s largest city Stepanakert, to protest the blockade of the only land link to Armenia, an AFP journalist saw. 

Stepanakert’s main Renaissance Square was flooded with protesters on Sunday, with a giant Armenian flag hoisted above the crowd.

Armenia and Azerbaijan, who went to war over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region in autumn 2020, have recently argued over the Lachin corridor. 

For nearly two weeks Azerbaijani activists have blocked the corridor, the only land link to Armenia, to protest what they claim is illegal mining. 

Yerevan has accused Baku of staging demonstrations and creating a humanitarian crisis in the mountainous enclave.

Armenia’s parliament has said Karabakh was suffering from shortages of food, medicine and fuel following the closure of the corridor.

Azerbaijan insists there is no blockade and that civilian cars can move freely to and out of Karabakh.

“This is the only road that connects Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) with the rest of the world. Not only Armenia, we reach the rest of the world through Armenia,” 70-year-old Stepanakert resident Donara Gabrielyan told AFP on Saturday. 

Armenia also said Russian peacekeepers deployed in the region were failing to prevent the blockade.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who called for de-escalation on Friday, said the Russian peacekeeping contingent was “clearly fulfilling its tasks” while working in “very difficult conditions”.

Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a six-week war in autumn 2020.

The fighting claimed more than 6,500 lives and ended with a Russian-brokered truce that saw Yerevan cede territories it had controlled for decades.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, ethnic Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan. The ensuing conflict claimed around 30,000 lives.

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