Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh have accused Azerbaijan of cutting gas supplies.
The pipeline which supplies natural gas from Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh was first damaged on 8 May in yet unspecified circumstances. Stepanakert then claimed that Baku was intentionally preventing repair teams from beginning work on restoring gas flow, which resulted in the territory being deprived of gas for over a week. When repair work was finally allowed to resume on 16 March, and partial gas flow restored soon after, the issue appeared to be resolved. However, the self-styled Artsakh Information Center reported yesterday evening that they had “sufficient grounds to assume that during the repairs of the gas pipeline the Azerbaijani side installed a valve through which it stopped the gas supply a few hours ago”.
The statement added that the situation was immediately reported to the Russian military contingent in Nagorno-Karabakh, and that efforts were being made to restore gas supplies. According to reports, it was thanks to negotiations between the Russian forces, and Armenian and Azerbaijani authorities that an agreement was reached last week to allow repair work to begin.
The pipeline is the only source of gas for the territory, and is of vital importance given that the majority of inhabitants in the area rely mainly on gas to heat their homes during the harsh climatic conditions where temperatures regularly reach below freezing at this time of year. The current gas shortage has therefore been described by authorities in Stepanakert as a “humanitarian issue”, which has impacted the livelihoods of the population and prevented hospitals and other essential services from functioning effectively.
The lack of international presence in and around Nagorno-Karabakh means that the Russians are left as the sole arbiters of the situation, although it also cannot be excluded that the Russians may be involved in the disruption as part of a process of ensuring their indispensability in the region.