CHAPTER 23 THE PROCLAMATION OF THE NAGORNO- KARABAGH REPUBLIC AS A GUARANTY FOR SELF-DEFENCE

As a result of September 21 referendum, Armenia quit the USSR and became independent officially.

Such a referendum was to be held in Azerbaijan on December 28. On November 4 the gas pipe Ghazakh-Yerevan was blocked up. The November 13 issue of the newspaper “Bakinski Rabochi” announced that the “Armenian bandits were to be blamed for the damage of the pipe line.”5

This was another example of propagandist terror undertaken by the leaders of Azerbaijan. On the same day, in an interview to the newspaper “Komsomolskaya Pravda”,6 the representative of Azerinform declared that the gas was not Russian but Iranian and Central Asian, so the official of “Gasard” enterprise G. Chernetski wasn’t authorised to condemn Azerbaijan for closing the “Russian gas.”7

Probably this was the way Azerbaijan was trying to tell the world of its independence.

The Armenian side expressed the view that the closure of the pipe line was intended to drag Armenia into the war, as Armenian atomic power station had been thoughtlessly closed down, and the country was left without electricity. Thus Armenia was to face a winter without gas and electricity. Probably the results of the act were thoroughly worked out by those people who considered the December 7, 1988 disaster as a holiday.

As a result of the autumn referendum Karabakh declared independence from Azerbaijan. Arrangements gave every citizen a chance to vote. The Azerbaijanis boycotted the vote, but the overwhelming majority of Armenians (over 90%) voted in favour of independence. With this mandate, the leaders went ahead with a General Election for a Parliament, which included a proportional representation of seats for the Azerbaijani population. Again the latters boycotted, but the rest of the seats were filled and the Parliament was opened in January 1992.

These developments were greeted with anger by the rulers of Azerbaijan. On November 26 the President of Azerbaijan decreed the dissolution of the Mountainous Karabakh Autonomous Region. According to the December 5 decree of the Supreme Soviet of Azerbaijan the “Session of the Supreme Soviet of the Karabakh Republic” was considered unlawful.

Meanwhile the Azerbaijani OMON proceeded to escalate military offensives in an attempt to quell the unilateral declaration of independence. Their task was made easier as the Soviet Army forces were being withdrawn by President Yeltsin. As they withdrew, Azerbaijani armed forces and OMON moved into taking their place. Karabakh became an open battlefield, with the civilians trapped inside. The Stepanakert airport was in the hands of the OMON with the leader Captain Alif Letif Oghli. Up to 1985 he had worked in the village Khojali as an inspector in the local Interior Office. He had been tried for forgery and receiving bribes and sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment. For such kinds of crimes people were not being charged in other regions of Azerbaijan as bribe-taking and pay-offs had become a norm of life in the country. After three years’ imprisonment Hajiev was set free on condition that he should take an active part in the Sumgait and Baku pogroms. Soon the courageous criminal joined the OMON and was appointed the Chief of Khojali Interior Office. There were several such criminal members in OMON. They were good at attacking unarmed people and looting in the Shahumian district facing the Armenian self-defence units, they immediately left the five villages occupied by the USSR Interior troops.

In June 1992, Azerbaijani forces began attacking Stepanakert with Grad missiles, which are jet-propelled rockets intended as anti-personel weapons. Later they began bombing and strafing various districts of Karabakh with SU-25 and other ground attack bomber planes which they had inherited from the Soviet Air Force.

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