YERVAN (Azatutyun.am)—Nearly 5,000 residents of Nagorno-Karabakh have lost their jobs since Azerbaijan blocked on December 12 the sole road connecting it to Armenia and the outside world, according to the authorities in Stepanakert.
The reported figure indicates a dramatic increase in unemployment in the Armenian-populated territory with a population of up to 120,000 persons.
The continuing blockade has disrupted much of economic activity there in addition to creating severe shortages of food, medicine and other essential items. The shortages are compounded by disruptions in electricity and natural gas supplies from Armenia.
“My brother drove a taxi from Stepanakert to Yerevan,” said Aida Babayan, a 58-year-old resident of the Karabakh capital. “He is now out of work.”
“I and my son worked for a construction firm,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “We too are now jobless. The company has closed.”
Babayan said that her family is now unable to pay housing rent and utility bills. It cannot even afford buying limited amounts of basic food with coupons provided by the Karabakh government, complained the woman.
Azerbaijani government-backed protesters blocking the vital road allow only convoys of Russian peacekeepers and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to pass through it. The ICRC has evacuated critically ill patients from Karabakh and transported several dozen Karabakh children stranded in Armenia back to their families.
Karabakh’s schools and colleges were reopened on Monday one day after Azerbaijan again unblocked gas supplies to the region. The authorities had suspended classes there on January 19, saying they cannot be heated in the absence of gas and electricity.
According to them, the Azerbaijani side is still not allowing Karabakh utility workers to repair an Azerbaijani-controlled section of the high-voltage transmission line supplying electricity from Armenia. The section was knocked down on January 9, leading to daily power cuts in Karabakh.
Meanwhile, Ruben Vardanyan, the Karabakh premier, continued to meet local residents, answer their questions and make defiant statements on Monday.
“If we want Azerbaijan to fail in its plans to depopulate Artsakh, we have one option: to grit our teeth and move on,” Vardanyan told a group of Stepanakert residents.