Tensions simmer in Nagorno-Karabakh over Azeri road blockade

© Karen Minasyan, AFP

Ruzan Hovhanisyan fears that she will have to ring in the New Year without her family in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh due to a blockade by arch-enemy Azerbaijan.

The mood in the Armenian-populated breakaway territory has been anything but festive.

The region of around 120,000 people is running short of food, medicines and fuel, and Armenian authorities have accused Azerbaijan of orchestrating a full-blown humanitarian crisis in Karabakh in the latest spike in decades-long tensions between the two ex-Soviet nations.

Since mid-December Azerbaijanis have been blocking a road to protest what they claim is illegal mining causing environmental damage in Karabakh.

Baku claims the protests are spontaneous but Yerevan accuses Azerbaijan of orchestrating the demonstrations in order to push Armenians to abandon the disputed territory.

“My whole family is in Stepanakert,” Hovhanisyan said, referring to Karabakh’s main city. “How can I eat if my loved ones go to bed hungry?

“Azerbaijan is playing with the lives of ordinary people,” she added.

Earlier this month the 39-year-old woman went to the Armenian capital Yerevan on a work trip, but is now unable to return home.

Another Stepanakert resident, Ashot Grigoryan, described the situation as “very serious.”

“I went to a store, everyone gets just half a kilo of sugar,” the 62-year-old told AFP. “The shelves are nearly empty, it’s good that there is still bread.”

The activists denied blocking the road.

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