Nagorno-Karabakh gas explosion leaves at least 20 dead as residents rush to Armenia

At least 20 people were killed and nearly 300 others injured by an explosion at a crowded gas station in Nagorno-Karabakh as thousands of people rushed to flee into Armenia, separatist authorities in the region said Tuesday.

More than 13,500 people – about 12 per cent of the region’s population – have fled across the border since Azerbaijan’s swift military operation to fully reclaim the breakaway region after three decades of separatist rule, Armenia’s government said Tuesday morning.

Nagorno-Karabakh: Armenians worry for missing relatives as Russian peacekeepers seen leaving

Moscow said that Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh were assisting the evacuation. Some 700 people remained in the peacekeepers’ camp there by Monday night.

Nagorno-Karabakh was an autonomous region within Azerbaijan under the Soviet Union, but separatist sentiment grew in the USSR’s dying years and then flared into war.

Nagorno-Karabakh came under the control of ethnic Armenian forces, backed by the Armenian military, in separatist fighting that ended in 1994. During the war in 2020, Azerbaijan took back parts of Nagorno-Karabakh along with surrounding territory that Armenian forces had claimed during the earlier conflict.

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Under the armistice that ended the 2020 fighting, Russia deployed a peacekeeping force of about 2,000 to the region. But Armenian officials and regional authorities complained that the peacekeepers were unwilling or unable to end the blockade.

Aida Sultanova in London and Jim Heintz in Tallinn, Estonia, contributed to this story.

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