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Armenian PM says Armenians may flee Karabakh and blames Russia

Armenian PM says Armenians may flee Karabakh and blames Russia © Reuters. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan gives a televised address to citizens on the national independence day, in Yerevan, Armenia, in this picture released September 21, 2023. The Office to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia/Handout via REUTE

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on Sunday the likelihood was rising that ethnic Armenians would flee the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh and blamed Russia for failing to ensure Armenian security.

If 120,000 people go down the Lachin corridor to Armenia, the small South Caucasian country could face both a humanitarian and political crisis.

“If proper conditions are not created for the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh to live in their homes and there are no effective protection mechanisms against ethnic cleansing, the likelihood is rising that the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh will see exile from their homeland as the only way to save their lives and identity,” Pashinyan said in address to the nation.

“Responsibility for such a development of events will fall entirely on Azerbaijan, which adopted a policy of ethnic cleansing, and on the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Nagorno-Karabakh,” he said, according to a government transcript.

He added that the Armenian-Russian strategic partnership was “not enough to ensure the external security of Armenia”.

Last week, Azerbaijan scored a victory over ethnic Armenians who have controlled the Karabakh region since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. An adviser to the leader of the Karabakh Armenians told Reuters earlier on Sunday that the population would leave because they feel unsafe under Azerbaijani rule.

Russia had acted as guarantor for a peace deal that ended a 44-day war in Karabakh three years ago, and many Armenians blame Moscow for failing to protect the region.

Russian officials say Pashinyan is to blame for his own mishandling of the crisis, and have repeatedly said that Armenia, which borders Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan and Georgia, has few other friends in the region.

“The government will accept our brothers and sisters from Nagorno-Karabakh with full care,” Pashinyan said.

Pashinyan has warned that some unidentified forces were seeking to stoke a coup against him and has accused Russian media of engaging in an information war against him.

“Some of our partners are increasingly making efforts to expose our security vulnerabilities, putting at risk not only our external, but also internal security and stability, while violating all norms of etiquette and correctness in diplomatic and interstate relations, including obligations assumed under treaties,” Pashinyan said in his Sunday address.

“In this context, it is necessary to transform, complement and enrich the external and internal security instruments of the Republic of Armenia,” he said.

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