Schools, gas stations in blockaded Artsakh closed due to energy crisis

Artsakh residents heat homes using wood stoves (Photo: Marut Vanyan)

Artsakh is facing an energy crisis due to the closure of gas and electricity supplies amid the ongoing blockade.

The Lachin Corridor, the sole route connecting Artsakh and Armenia, has been closed since December 12. Government-sponsored Azerbaijani protesters posing as environmental activists have shut down the corridor for over six weeks. The government of Azerbaijan has denied that the Lachin Corridor is closed to travel. Gas, electricity and internet connectivity have been periodically disrupted, compounding the effects of the waning food and medicine supply. 

The government of Artsakh announced that gas will only be available to medical centers and bread production facilities, due to the limited gas supply. The authorities also temporarily suspended the operations of gas stations on January 24, yet reopened them the next day. 

Schools have also been closed as of January 19 due to the gas and electricity supply disruptions. All of the 118 schools in Artsakh have been closed, and 20,000 students cannot attend school, according to official data. 

Schools in Artsakh have closed due to the limited gas and electricity (Photo: Marut Vanyan)

The natural gas pipeline providing Artsakh with its gas supply was partially reopened on January 20 yet shut off again on January 21.  

This is the third time the natural gas flow has been disrupted since the start of the blockade. The pipeline was previously cut off on December 13, the day after the start of the blockade. It was restored three days later, only to be shut off again on January 17. 

Artsakh receives its natural gas supply from Armenia through a single pipeline that runs parallel to the Lachin Corridor. Parts of the pipeline cross through territories controlled by Azerbaijan following the cession of land after the 2020 Artsakh War. 

The simultaneous closure of the natural gas pipeline and high-voltage power line has overwhelmed Artsakh’s utilities. The government of Artsakh has drawn from local generating stations for electricity. 

Artsakh authorities said on January 24 that “serious problems with electricity supply have arisen” due to the breakdown of the power line and the periodic gas supply cuts. 

“Actual electricity supply is currently carried out at the expense of Artsakh’s limited internal resources, due to which the system is very overloaded, and the number of accidents is increasing,” Artsakh State Minister Ruben Vardanyan’s office reported

As of January 21, the rolling blackout in Artsakh increased from four to six hours a day. Two-hour power outages have been implemented three times a day in each household. A rolling blackout has been in place since January 11 to conserve the limited electricity supply. 

The power line that provides Artsakh’s electricity supply from Armenia has been cut off since January 9. A section of the power line that runs through Azerbaijani-controlled territory has been damaged. Artsakh authorities say that Azerbaijan has prohibited repair crews from accessing the power line. 

The blockade has also created a crisis in food supply. As of January 24, almost all grocery store products have been sold out. Artsakh authorities said that farming in the spring will be difficult due to the shortage of diesel fuel, which is usually imported from Armenia.

Grocery stores in Artsakh have been emptied (Photo: Siranush Sargsyan) 

The Artsakh government has implemented a coupon system to conserve the food supply and equitably distribute food to households. Each resident can purchase one kilogram of rice, pasta, buckwheat and sugar and one liter of oil per month.

Artsakh typically imports about 400 tons of basic goods, including food and medical supplies, from Armenia per day along the Lachin Corridor. At least 17,600 tons of basic goods would have been delivered to Artsakh during the period of the blockade.  

Many Western countries, including France and the United States, have denounced the closure of the Lachin Corridor by Azerbaijan. 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev on January 23 to “urge an immediate reopening of the Lachin Corridor to commercial traffic.” 

“He underscored that the risk of a humanitarian crisis in the Lachin Corridor undermined prospects for peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” a readout of the call from the US State Department says

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price also called for the “full restoration of free movement through the corridor” during a press briefing on January 24. 

“The worsening humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh has been a focus of not only the Secretary but others in this building,” Price said

“We believe we need a solution to this impasse that will ensure the safety and well-being of the population living in the area, and we believe the way forward is, as I said before, through negotiations,” he continued.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution on January 19 on the humanitarian consequences of the blockade in Artsakh.

The resolution urges Azerbaijan to “immediately reopen the Lachin Corridor to enable free movement and ensure access to essential goods and services, thus guaranteeing security in the region and safeguarding the residents’ livelihoods.”

The resolution is also critical of Russia’s peacekeeping mission in Artsakh and its inability to end the blockade or reopen the Lachin Corridor. 

The European Parliament condemned the “inaction of the Russian ‘peacekeepers’” and called for their “replacement with OSCE international peacekeepers, under a UN mandate.” The resolution “calls for the EU to be actively involved and ensure that the inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh are no longer held hostage by Baku’s activism, Russia’s destructive role and the Minsk Group’s inactivity.”

Authorities in Armenia have been critical of the Russian peacekeeping force’s response to the blockade. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called the mission a “silent witness to the depopulation of the Nagorno-Karabakh region” on January 10. 

The President of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and Foreign Minister of Iceland Thórdís Gylfadóttir also released a statement on January 19 calling for the reopening of the Lachin Corridor. 

I call on the relevant authorities to quickly restore freedom of movement along the corridor to avoid further deterioration of the situation,” her statement reads

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan called the Icelandic leader’s statement “regrettable.” 

“Such statements do not contribute to peace in the region and lead to increased tensions,” the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said

The Artsakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the resolution adopted by the European Parliament and its “principled position on the need to put an end to the inhumane policy of Azerbaijan towards Artsakh and its people.”

The Artsakh Foreign Ministry supported the call for an international fact-finding mission on the Lachin Corridor. 

“We highly appreciate the appeal of the European Parliament to the international community to be actively involved in the fate of the people of Artsakh,” the Foreign Ministry said. It did not comment on the European Parliament’s criticism of Russia. 

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian is a staff writer for the Armenian Weekly. Her writing has also been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Hetq and the Daily Californian. She is pursuing master’s degrees in journalism and Near Eastern Studies at New York University. A human rights journalist and feminist poet, Lillian's first poetry collection Journey to Tatev was released with Girls on Key Press in spring of 2021.
Lillian Avedian

@LillianAvedian

Graduate student @GloJo_NYU and @nyukevo. Staff writer @armenianweekly.
It's been over six weeks since #Azerbaijan closed the #LachinCorridor and blockaded #Artsakh. Gas and electricity s… https://t.co/vibVON7bSU - 5 days ago
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1 Comment

  1. The Russians could end this today if they wanted too. But they wont. That’s why UNITY, ONE ARMENIA, ARTSAKH AND DIASPORA is the ONLY answer. No more useless Armenian thieves. No more incompetent useless losers at the helm. ALL traitors.

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