In the aftermath of a swift military campaign by Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh, tens of thousands of displaced individuals have sought refuge in Armenia, intensifying the political turmoil in the region. The rapid collapse of the separatist forces in Nagorno-Karabakh, influenced by an Azerbaijani blockade and reinforced by support from Turkiye, triggered a mass exodus of ethnic Armenians fearing life under Azerbaijani rule.
Armenia now grapples with the repercussions of one of the most significant political crises in its post-Soviet independence era. The Armenian capital, Yerevan, witnesses swarms of protesters demanding the ouster of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who has been criticized for failing to defend Nagorno-Karabakh. The displaced population, numbering over 100,000, adds to the challenges as Armenia struggles to provide housing, medical care, and employment, AP reported.
The anger directed towards Pashinyan is palpable, with accusations of mishandling the crisis. However, this discontent is not limited to the prime minister; historical tensions, including a tradition of political violence, contribute to the volatile situation. The geopolitical landscape further complicates matters, with strained relations between Armenia and its longtime ally Russia. The Kremlin, in turn, shifts blame to Pashinyan, accusing him of damaging ties by embracing the West.
As Armenia contemplates its foreign policy direction, the role of Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh remains uncertain. Russia's distraction with the war in Ukraine and its economic partnership with Turkiye have left Armenia in a delicate position. Pashinyan, despite emphasizing the need to strengthen ties with the West, faces challenges in replacing Moscow as Armenia's main sponsor.
The potential withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers could have broader implications, affecting regional stability and exacerbating tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The unresolved issue of a corridor to Azerbaijan's exclave, Nakhchivan, adds to the complexity. Azerbaijan's warnings of using force to secure the corridor, despite calls for respecting Armenia's sovereignty, raise concerns about the potential for renewed conflict.
The international community watches closely as Armenia navigates this multifaceted crisis, balancing domestic discontent, geopolitical pressures, and the urgent needs of a displaced population.