While Armenia admitted on Saturday that it had lost more than 2,300 soldiers in the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, the scene of six weeks of clashes with Azerbaijan, residents of this region located in the Lesser Caucasus preferred to burn their houses down than to abandon them to the hated neighbor.
Armenia and Azerbaijan signed earlier this week, under the sponsorship of Moscow, a ceasefire agreement ending the conflict. According to the terms of this text, Azerbaijan has reconquered vast territories under Armenian control since a first war in the early 1990s.
As a symbol of this humiliating setback, Armenians preferred to burn their houses down rather than see them fall into the hands of Azerbaijani forces on the eve of their expected arrival in certain areas.
In the heart of Nagorno-Karabakh, the village of Charektar marks the entrance to the Kalbajar region, a narrow valley winding along the Tartar River at the foot of high mountains and sheer cliffs. This region is part of
protective glaze formed by Armenian forces around Nagorno-Karabakh, part of which is to return to Azerbaijan under the terms of the peace agreement.
Charektar is one of the main inhabited areas in the region, and undoubtedly more than half of the houses in the village, for many modest mountain peasant huts, have been set on fire there in the last 24 hours by their owners on departure.
Wisps of smoke rise into the valley's autumn sky. Charektar is burning. And each time, the same scenes around the burning homes. Men in military fatigues, returning from the front lines, load all they can into old bumpy trucks.
Tomorrow the Azerbaijani soldiers will be there
When and how will the Azerbaijani forces arrive? Nobody knows. The Nagorno-Karabakh authorities have assured that the Kalbajar road, the only way linking the enclave to Armenia, will remain under their control. Russian soldiers circulate there.
On this same road, it is the great migration. Traffic is incessant towards the Armenian border town of Vardenis, accessible by the Sodits pass, at 2700 meters above sea level. In the valley, everything that can be transported from here tonight seems on the way to being.
It's the last day. Tomorrow the Azerbaijani soldiers will be there. Throat tight, a man ties an old gasoline-soaked sweater at the end of a wooden pole, lights it and throws it all on the floor, contemplating the spectacle of his house on fire. The flames are already licking the frame of the tin roof, which is gradually set ablaze. To be sure that there will only be ashes, the unfortunate owner throws embers and burning planks through each of the windows.
This is my house, I cannot leave it to the Turks. This is what Armenians often call Azerbaijanis.
The whole house was emptied. There is only a huge massage tub left in the middle of a room, the plastic of which begins to melt under the heat of the blaze.
Everyone is burning their house today (…) We were given until midnight to leave, let go of the man before getting back into his vehicle, without looking behind him, and launching
The heavy toll of Armenia, which admitted on Saturday having lost more than 2,300 soldiers, represents nearly double the losses previously announced by Yerevan in this conflict, in addition to 50 civilians killed since the resumption of hostilities with Baku in early September, for control of this mountainous Caucasus enclave.
At present, the bodies of 2,317 servicemen, including unidentified bodies, have been taken into the forensic examination service.
According to the spokesperson, the process of exchanging bodies with Azerbaijan has only just begun.
The belligerents do not have final figures for the moment, she noted.
Azerbaijan, for its part, does not disclose its military losses, simply reporting 93 civilians killed by Armenian bombing.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh had left more than 4,000 victims and 8,000 wounded, as well as tens of thousands of refugees.
On Friday, Russian peacekeepers entered Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, and controlled its approaches and the nearby front line. In total, nearly 2,000 soldiers from Moscow are to be mobilized with armored vehicles and special vehicles.
Read also :
- Political unrest in Armenia and application of the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh
- Armenia's stability threatened after failure in Nagorno-Karabakh
- Nagorno-Karabakh conflict: anger roars in the Armenian capital