They have been unable to restock staple items such as cooking oil, sugar and potatoes since the sole road connecting Karabakh to Armenia was blocked by government-backed Azerbaijani protesters on December 12.
The worsening food shortages were evidenced on Thursday by empty shelves in local grocery stores and closed small shops specializing in fruits and vegetables.
“We have no sugar, no oil, no rice, no macaroni, no sausage,” said one shopkeeper in Stepanakert. “We don’t even have salt.”
The Karabakh capital’s central market was unusually deserted, with only a handful of traders running their market stalls.
“Everyone went home,” said one female vendor. “There are no fruits and vegetables here except a few types of locally grown greens.”
“Most traders are staying at home because they have nothing to sell,” explained another woman. “Unless the [Lachin] corridor is reopened, I will probably run out of potatoes in three or four days.”
“The situation with food supply and gasoline is really severe,” Ruben Vardanyan, the Karabakh premier, admitted in a daily video address to the population aired in the morning. He urged it to be prepared for a potentially lengthy blockade.
Vardanyan also said that although Karabakh’s leadership is “doing everything” to end the crisis it will not cut any deals with Baku at the expense of the Karabakh Armenians’ “dignity” and self-rule.
The Azerbaijanis blocking the Lachin corridor are demanding that their government be allowed to inspect “illegal” mining operations in Karabakh and assess their environmental impact.
The blockade has prompted serious concern from not only leading world powers but also international human rights bodies.
“I am concerned that the prolonged disruption in the movement of people … and in access to essential goods and services, including food supplies and urgent medical care, threatens the enjoyment of human rights by the population of Nagorno-Karabakh”, Dunja Mijatovic, the Council of Europe commissioner for human rights, said in a statement issued on Thursday.
The U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned of “dire humanitarian consequences” of the road closure.
“Regardless of who is blocking the road, Azerbaijan’s authorities and the Russian peacekeeping force deployed there should ensure that access remains open, to enable freedom of movement and ensure people have access to essential goods and services,” said Hugh Williamson , HRW’s Europe and Central Asia director.