Artsakh’s Karvachar District became the second territory to be handed over to Azerbaijan as part of an agreement that ended military hostilities, but forced the surrender of territory to Baku.
At midnight Wednesday local time the entrance to Artsakh along the famed Vardenis-Mardakert Highway was closed. Barricades emblazoned with the Armenian tri-color lined the sides of the highway, while a sign welcoming visitors to Artsakh remained standing, despite earlier reports that it was being dismantled. The sign will presumably serve as a check point.
It was pandemonium as Karvachar residents and last of the Artsakh soldiers rushed to evacuate the territory they have called home.
Many residents burned their houses and places of business down to the ground, while the soldier of the Armed Forces set their military barracks on fire so that Azerbaijanis occupiers do not use the facilities.
Sputnik-Armenia correspondent Nana Martrosyan observed that both sides of the highway were jammed with cars. On the one hand, residents of Karvachar were leaving for Stepanakert, and on the side people visiting the 9th-century Dadivank Monastery for one last time were returning to Armenia.
The construction of the highway was entirely funded by the Armenia Fund, through whose telethons the needed money was raised by Armenians from Armenia and Diaspora. It was inaugurated in 2017 providing a second access from Armenia to Artsakh. Now, however, the road that traversed through the gigantic boulders of Karvachar and snaked alongside the Terter river and through the lush Artsakh forests into Stepanakert will remain untraversed by Armenians.
The only route from Armenia to Artsakh will be the Goris-Stepanakert highway, also constructed by the Armenia Fund. However a turnabout that would take passengers to Shushi will be off limits.
This is the new reality facing beleaguered people of Artsakh.
“We stayed here until the end. We were here throughout the war and we did not surrender anything to the enemy,” said the soldiers of the Artsakh Armed Forces, who were leaving Karvachar.
“Now there are 12 kilometers to the Azerbaijani posts. We are leaving our positions and we are blowing up our military post and barracks so they are not used by Azerbaijanis. We are going to Armenia. Our platoon was one of the last that stayed,” added the soldiers.
The Russian RIA Novosti news agency captured the explosions at the Artsakh military posts.
Karvachar is known as the Armenian fortress. It was a shield that ensured the Artsakh Liberation victory in the 1990’s.
A Sputnik-Armenia team captured in images the last moments of residents of Karvachar and described a deathly silence, only to be pierced by barking dogs who have been left behind by their owners. There are no checkpoints along the road, as only a few residents remained there until the final hours.
The surrender of Karvachar was scheduled to take place on November 15. An extension was granted until the November 25. Alas, it is now abandoned.
All that remains is the sign welcoming visitors to Artsakh.