The authorities in Stepanakert said that the flow of gas to Karabakh from a pipeline passing through Azerbaijani-controlled territory was blocked for the fifth time since the start of the road blockade on December 12.
Following the previous disruption reported on January 18, the authorities suspended classes in Karabakh’s schools and colleges, saying that they cannot be heated in the absence of gas and electricity. The schools were reopened on January 30 after a partial restoration of the gas supply.
Armenia’s electricity supplies to Karabakh were similarly blocked by Baku on January 10, leading to daily power cuts there. The local power grid operator says that its specialists have still not been allowed to repair an Azerbaijani-controlled section of the high-voltage transmission line supplying the electricity.
The energy crisis has compounded shortages of food, medicine and other essential items. Much of economic activity in Karabakh has also been disrupted. More than 5,000 of its estimated 120,000 residents have lost their jobs because of the blockade, according to the Karabakh government.
The government decided at the weekend to pay each of them 68,000 drams ($170) in compensation. In addition, unemployed parents of children are to receive 40,000 drams per child.
“If only one of the parents doesn’t work, then [the compensation will be worth] 20,000 drams,” said Armen Mangasarian, the social security minister.
Azerbaijani government-backed protesters blocking the Lachin corridor allow only convoys of Russian peacekeepers and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to pass through it. The ICRC has evacuated critically ill patients from Karabakh and transported several dozen Karabakh children stranded in Armenia back to their families.
In recent days, the Russian peacekeepers appear to have shipped some foodstuffs from Armenia to Karabakh, somewhat alleviating the food shortages. Stepanakert residents say they can now buy limited amounts of some fruits and vegetables, sausage and confectionery in addition to sunflower oil, sugar, macaroni, rice and buckwheat rationed by the authorities.
Armenia has condemned the blockade as a gross violation of the Russian-brokered agreement that stopped the 2020 war in Karabakh.
Russia, the United States and the European Union have repeatedly urged Azerbaijan to reopen the corridor. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken telephoned Aliyev for that purpose late last month. Aliyev again defended the Azerbaijanis blocking the Lachin corridor and demanding that Baku be given access to “illegal” copper mines in Karabakh.