A steady siege on the Armenian people in Artsakhk, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh, could be setting the stage for another genocide, many claim.

The only route in and out of the region has been closed since Dec. 12 after Azerbaijani “environmental activists” set up camp on the Lachin-Xankendi Highway (also known as the Goris-Stepanakert Highway). The activists say they oppose the illegal exploitation of gold and copper deposits in the area.

The highway has been under the control of Russian peacekeepers since the end of the 2020 war between Armenia and Azerbaijan and is supposed to be kept open for the delivery of humanitarian aid, according to a ceasefire brokered by Russia.

Basic goods such as food and medicine are dwindling and the threat of starvation is looming. 

“We expect more practical steps from the international community, including the Russian Federation,” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in a recent speech. He said Moscow is “becoming a silent witness to the depopulation of Nagorno-Karabakh” and that a United Nations peacekeeping force might be preferable.

The December siege follows an attack in September by Azerbaijan on Armenian soil – not the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. 

Armenian analysts accused Azerbaijan of taking advantage of a distracted Russia still waging war against Ukraine. 

“In this post-war period of insecurity and uncertainty, only one thing is certain: that Russia has become clearly unreliable and consistently unpredictable,” Richard Giragosian, director of Yerevan’s Regional Studies Center, told Eurasianet. “Since Moscow’s failed invasion of Ukraine, the logic and expectations of Russian security obligation to Armenia no longer apply. The Azerbaijanis are acting because they can.”

Christmas festivities – celebrated on the eve of Jan. 6 according to the Orthodox calendar – were low key in the region this year, especially in Artsakh, home to more than 100,000 Armenians.

“People will carry on with the traditions as best they can,” said Aren Deyirmenjian, country representative for the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA). “But we will reflect the love of a God who stays by your side, even when all goes wrong.”

More than 1.5 million Armenians were killed between 1914 to 1918 at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, an atrocity denied until today by modern-day Turkey.

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