A section of the high-voltage transmission line coming from Armenia was knocked down on January 10 almost one month after Azerbaijani government-backed protesters blocked the Lachin Corridor on ostensibly environmental grounds.
According to the authorities in Stepanakert, the “accident” occurred near the town of Lachin handed back to Azerbaijan last summer. They suspect that it was an act of sabotage aimed at aggravating the effects of the Azerbaijani blockade.
Karabakh was thus left relying only on electricity generated by its hydroelectric plants that cannot fully meet its energy needs. Its leadership had to impose rolling blackouts across the Armenian-populated territory.
A crisis task force headed by the Karabakh premier, Ruben Vardanyan, discussed the energy crisis at a daily meeting in Stepanakert. An official statement on the meeting said Baku is still not allowing Karabakh specialists to visit the site of the accident and repair the transmission line.
The task force decided to extend the power outages from two to four hours a day. It said that the measure, effective from Tuesday, will help the authorities “ensure the minimum energy needs of the population as long as possible.”
The power cuts are especially challenging for residents of Stepanakert and other Karabakh towns who use electricity to heat their homes. They are compounded by growing shortages of food and other essential products that were imported to Karabakh from or through Armenia.
Later this week, the authorities will start ration some of these items to ensure their even distribution to the population. Every local resident is to receive one a liter of sunflower oil and one kilogram of rice, macaroni, buckwheat and sugar a month.
Many residents called for such rationing after the authorities began supplying Karabakh shops with these staples from their strategic reserves late last month. They complained that on not all shops are receiving the emergency supplies.
Karabakh food stores now mostly sell bread, milk and other dairy products made by local farmers and firms.
Over the weekend, Russian peacekeepers stationed in Karabakh handed out tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables outside Stepanakert’s maternity and children’s hospitals. The peacekeepers’ trucks can drive to and from Armenia through the otherwise blocked road.