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The crowds of Armenians fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh are so big you can see them from space

Azmi Haroun   

The crowds of Armenians fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh are so big you can see them from space
  • At least 70,000 ethnic Armenians have fled the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh this week.
  • Azerbaijan gained full control of the contested area after a surprise military attack last week.

Tens of thousands of refugees have fled the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh in the last week, leaving a traffic jam between Azerbaijan and Armenia so long that it's visible from space.

At least 70,000 ethnic Armenians have fled the territory, which was under a separatist rule associated with Armenia, while internationally, the area has been recognized as belonging to Azerbaijan, per The New York Times.

In a military attack last week, Azerbaijan seized control of the entire territory, driving out many of the 120,000 ethnic Armenians and the separatist Armenian administration, causing a mass exodus of families so large that the traffic jam was visible from space.

Satellite imagery from Maxar taken on September 26 showed a long line of cars along the Lachin corridor, as Armenians and troops left Stepanakert, and headed into mainland Armenia in fear of ethnic persecution from Azerbaijan.

The mass outpour of refugees has intensified in recent days, with locals taking their bare essentials with them. The number of refugees is expected to rise significantly in the coming days, the Times reported.

By September 20, the separatist Armenian leader of the territory signed a decree dissolving the local government and asking Armenian troops to disarm, handing over the territory in exchange for safe passage for ethnic Armenians returning to Armenia, according to the Associated Press.

In 1994, after a six-year separatist struggle and the end of the Soviet Union, the territory was largely governed by an ethnic Armenian government backed by Armenia.

Internationally it was recognized as Azerbaijan's territory.

But by 2020, and several wars later, Azerbaijan regained large amounts of the land in a six-week war, where Russia helped negotiate a peace deal that largely fell in Azerbaijan's favor.

Russia's role has changed significantly

As part of the deal, Russia installed 2,000 peacekeepers along the Armenian border with Turkey and Azerbaijan, meant to quell future conflicts.

But Azerbaijan's recent aggression largely went unchallenged.

Last week, Armenian officials accused Azerbaijan of blowing up an oil depot that killed dozens and restricted peoples' abilities to flee by car, according to the Daily Beast.

The Armenian government has claimed that since last December, Azerbaijan had imposed a blockade on food and humanitarian aid entering the territory, which Azerbaijan has denied, per the AP.

Armenians leaving the territory told the Daily Beast that the peacekeepers mostly stood idly by. After brokering the 2020 peace deal, Russia has largely stepped out of that political arena and put its political and military resources towards the war in Ukraine, according to the Daily Beast.

"Russians didn't do anything to help us. Like sheep, they counted us," Flora, an Armenian escaping the territory, told the Daily Beast,"'How many of you are there?' That is the only question we get. They don't ask how many victims we have.'"