GORIS — Azerbaijani government-backed protesters blocking Nagorno-Karabakh’s land link with the outside world have not allowed Russian peacekeepers to escort 27 Karabakh civilians stranded in Armenia back to Stepanakert.
A convoy of cars carrying them had to return to the Armenian town of Goris on Tuesday night after spending five hours at the blocked section of the sole road connecting Karabakh to Armenia.
Gegham Stepanyan, Nagorno-Karabakh’s Human Rights Defender, said the Azerbaijanis held up the Russian peacekeepers for about five hours near the city of Shushi “despite a prearranged agreement” to allow the convoy of 27 Armenians, including children, elderly people, and people with disabilities, to pass.
“During the negotiations, the well-being of 4 civilians worsened,” according to Stepanyan, adding that the Azerbaijanis eventually permitted the peacekeepers to transport those four people to Stepanakert for medical care.
Stepanyan said some Azerbaijanis broke into one of those vehicles and intimidated their mostly female passengers.
After mediation by the Russian peacekeepers, the four women were transported through the roadblock to a hospital in Stepanakert. The remaining Armenians were forced to turn around and head back to Goris, the last major Armenian town on the road to Nagorno-Karabakh.
Karine Aghajanyan, another passenger, confirmed reports that an Azerbaijani ambulance transported them to a hospital in Stepanakert.
“The Russians wanted to transport them in their vehicles but the Azerbaijanis didn’t allowed them to do that … That is why we agreed to let them do that,” Aghajanyan told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Wednesday.
“It’s not that they provided medical aid, the incident happened because of them,” she said, speaking from Goris.