Thousands of Armenians in Karabakh mass at airport after ceasefire deal

Thousands of Armenians in Karabakh mass at airport after ceasefire deal
Thousands of Armenians in Karabakh mass at airport after ceasefire deal

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Civilians get out of a truck during an evacuation performed by Russian peacekeepers at an unknown location following the launch of a military operation by Azerbaijani forces in Nagorno-Karabakh, a region inhabited by ethnic Armenians, in this still image from video published September 20, 2023. — Russian Defence Ministry/Handout via Reuters

YEREVAN, Sept 20 — Thousands of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh today massed at the airport where some Russian peacekeepers are based after separatist forces agreed to a ceasefire which would see them surrender to Azerbaijan.

Separatists running the self-styled "Republic of Artsakh" urged the population of 120,000 not to rush to the airport in the capital which they call Stepanakert.

"We once again urge the population of Stepanakert not to succumb to panic and not to go to the airport on their own initiative in order to evacuate," the separatists said.

Pictures from Karabakh showed thousands of people at the airport, some with young children.

Separatist leaders have repeatedly accused Azerbaijan of wanting to ethnically cleanse Karabakh. Baku rejects such accusations and says it will protect the rights of the area's ethnic Armenian civilians under its own constitution.

Armenians, who are Christians, claim a long historical dominance in the area, dating back to several centuries before Christ.

Azerbaijan, whose inhabitants are mostly Muslim, links its historical identity to the territory too. It accuses the Armenians of driving out Azerbaijanis who lived nearby in the 1990s. It wants to gain full control over the region which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan.

Under the ceasefire agreement, representatives of the Armenians in Karabakh are due to hold a meeting with Azerbaijani authorities.

Russia said its peacekeepers were performing their role.

Moscow said there were 2,261 people, including 1,049 children, sheltering at the peacekeepers' base camp. — Reuters

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