In a statement, the authorities said the small volumes of gas remaining in Karabakh will now be supplied only to hospitals and other critical facilities using it for heating purposes.
Classes in Karabakh’s schools and colleges were suspended on January 19 for the same reason.
“Stepanakert is adapted to gas heaters,” Gayane Arustamian, a 60-year-old resident of the Karabakh capital, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “Homes, offices, schools and hospitals all depend on gas, and this [disruption] made people’s lives much harder.”
Azerbaijan halted the flow of gas to Karabakh from a pipeline passing through Azerbaijani-controlled territory at the weekend for the fourth time since Azerbaijani government-backed protesters blocked the Lachin corridor on December 12.
Armenia’s electricity supplies to Karabakh were similarly blocked by Baku on January 10, leading to daily power cuts in the Armenian-populated territory. The energy crisis compounded shortages of food, medicine and other essential items endured by local residents.
The shortages forced the Karabakh government to start rationing late last week some of the basic foodstuffs supplied by it to local shops. Every Karabakh resident received coupons allowing them to buy one liter of sunflower oil and one kilogram of rice, macaroni, buckwheat and sugar a month.
Marta, a Karabakh mother of three, said there is little else she and other locals can now buy without the coupons.
“The kids keep wanting [other items,] but we explain to them that [the end of the blockade] is just a matter of time,” she said.
Baku is facing growing international pressure to lift the blockade. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to “immediately restore commercial traffic on the Lachin corridor” in a phone call on Monday.
Aliyev reportedly rejected the appeal, defending the protesters demanding that the Azerbaijani government be allowed to inspect “illegal” copper mines in Karabakh. He again claimed that they did not block traffic through the sole road connecting Karabakh to Armenia.