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

The observers expressed their viewpoint mentioning;

“We think that Russia should confirm the Giulistan Treaty to fulfil its obligations and guarantee peace for the people of Karabakh.”

They also stressed that it was the moral duty of the Soviet Army to return the twenty-four seized villages to the Armenians before withdrawal.10

The observers witnessed the victory of independence in Karabakh, the 108 thousand 505 Armenians voted in favour and only 21 against. The total number of population was 207 thousand 678, from which 166 thousand 66 were Armenians, 38 thousand 737 Azerbaijanis and 2875 Russians.11

The Azerbaijani units launched attacks on the Armenian villages Nakhichevanik and Khramort. Thirty-three houses in Khramort were burnt down and nine elderly people left behind were killed. Four houses and a farm-house were burnt in Nakhichevanik. Soon the Armenian self-defence forces drove them out from the above two villages.

On January 6, 1992 at 11 o’clock the newly elected 44 deputies to the Supreme Soviet of Karabakh arrived in Stepanakert. About eighty observers and reporters from all parts of the world were present there. Due to absence of means of transport, the deputies from Shahumian, Martakert and Hadrut regions couldn’t take part in the session. The session declared the region independent and elected the first president of Karabakh. It was the leader of Karabakh movement in Hadrut region, 33 years old candidate of scientist, Arthur Mkrtchian. He represented the Dashnak wing in the Parliament.

Meantime Stepanakert inhabitants, with no light, heat or energy huddled in the dark. The electricity was cut off by the Azerbaijanis, the only water for 82 thousand inhabitants was from 8 spring wells. Worst of all was the lack of medical supplies. While the Christian Solidarity International (CSI) and Andrei Sakharov foundation were holding talks with Stepanakert officials, the Azerbaijani commander based in Shushi announced that his troops would the fearsome “Grad” multiple-missile rocket launchers against the civilians of Stepanakert and surrounding 23 villages. The threat was carried out on January 13. The first 2 metred rockets flew from the Azerbaijani village Shefik and fell on the regional centre of Shahumian region.13

“Grad” launchers can fire 40 powerful rockets in one volley; and each rocket can devastate a multistorey building. Fortunately the number of the victims was small that time.

Later from the “Grad” stations based in Shushi, Khojalu, Aghdam, Fizuli, Mirbashir, the Azerbaijanis fired all the Armenian settlements. The Stepanakert inhabitants walked five hours to and from the wells every day, in the bitter cold and under shelling. Three hundred shells and grenades fell on the city every day. Buildings were being ruined, people killed.

There was no other way for the Armenians of Karabakh but to fight defending their land and their dignity. The introduction of missile systems, armed personnel carriers, heavy artillery and comparable conventional weapons brought the armed conflict to a new intensity. With the use of these weapons Azerbaijani and Armenian forces engaged each other throughout the winter and spring of 1992. Armenian forces shelled Shusha, Khojali and other Azerbaijani villages, from which Azerbaijani forces would launch attacks. Letting the militants and inhabitants of Krkjan leave for Shushi, the Armenian forces took the village on January 19. The next strategic vantage points were the villages Ghushchilar and Malibeili were the Azerbaijani refugees from Armenia had been settled, increasing the number of population to 4 thousand. Malibeili was virtually blockaded, often relying on helicopters to bring in supplies. After the shooting down of an Azerbaijani helicopter in late January, no further helicopters were sent to Malibeili and Ghushchilare. On December 12 women and children were evacuated from Malibeili. According to the Helsinki Watch by October or November 1991 residents of Malibeili and Ghushchilare were basically confined to their villages as travel elsewhere could be done only by helicopter. A report in the newspaper “Express chronicle” asserted that on February 5 the Armenians warned the villagers that they had two days to leave.14 Armenian forces attacked the village on the night of February 9-10, with the aim of ending the shelling of Armenian villages from there. Malibeili was attacked first, the Azerbaijanis resisted for eight hours. Residents of Malibeili and Ghushchilare reported that as they fled they saw, from a top a hill a kilometer away, their houses in flame, but nobody could definitely say who had done it, the retreating inhabitants or the Armenians?

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