A few hours earlier, Baku and pro-Armenian fighters had agreed on a ceasefire. Nagorno-Karabakh’s de facto authorities said they had accepted negotiations with Baku to integrate the region with neighboring Azerbaijan.

Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan under international law, but the area is predominantly populated by Armenians. In 1991, Nagorno-Karabakh declared itself independent after a referendum that was not internationally recognized and boycotted by the Azerbaijani minority. The now broken resistance of the pro-Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh represents a significant victory for Aliyev.

Observers fear, however, that a significant proportion of the 120,000 Armenian residents could now leave the area. Images circulated in local media showed a crowd of people outside the airport in the capital Stepanakert, which is controlled by pro-Armenian forces. The White House expressed concern on Wednesday about the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijan and Armenia have been fighting over the enclave since the collapse of the Soviet Union and have therefore already fought two wars, most recently in 2020. At that time, after six weeks of fighting with more than 6,500 deaths, Russia, traditionally allied with Armenia, brokered a ceasefire agreement that forced Armenia to give up large areas forced. At that time, Russia sent 2,000 soldiers to monitor the ceasefire – but they did not prevent the latest outbreak of violence.

According to the Defense Ministry in Moscow on Wednesday evening, the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh continued. The Russian peacekeepers brought 3,154 people to safety as part of an evacuation operation, including 1,428 children. On Wednesday, however, the Defense Ministry also reported that several Russian peacekeepers had come under fire and been killed near the town of Chanyatag.

Azerbaijani President Aliyev said in his televised speech that the “illegal Armenian units” had already begun “withdrawing from their positions.”

According to the two parties, talks on the integration of Nagorno-Karabakh into the rest of Azerbaijan are scheduled to begin on Thursday in the Azerbaijani city of Yevlakh.

In Armenia, meanwhile, there was loud protest against the government’s handling of the crisis. Demonstrators in the capital Yerevan threw stones and bottles at police. The security forces used stun grenades and arrested several people. The demonstrators had gathered in front of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s office. They accuse the government of abandoning the predominantly Armenian population of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Pashinyan had previously stated in a televised address that Yerevan was not involved “in the drafting of the text of the ceasefire declaration in Nagorno-Karabakh.”

On Tuesday, Azerbaijan launched a large-scale military operation in the Caucasus region after weeks of escalating tensions. According to the Nagorno-Karabakh authorities, Stepanakert and other cities were under “intense fire.” According to Armenian information, 32 people were killed and 200 others were injured. A representative of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, however, spoke of “at least 200 killed and 400 injured.”

While the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh appeared to be holding, Armenia reported an incident on the border with Azerbaijan late on Wednesday evening. Azerbaijani army units fired on Armenian outposts near the village of Sotk with “light weapons,” the Defense Ministry said.