Dozens of schools using natural gas for heating were shut down on February 7 following a fresh disruption in the gas supplies carried out through Azerbaijani-controlled territory. About half of Karabakh’s 19,000 or so schoolchildren are enrolled in them.
Classes were not suspended for high school students because the authorities installed woodstoves in their classrooms. The other Karabakh schools are now fully heated by firewood.
Azerbaijan reportedly unblocked the flow of gas to Karabakh on Wednesday only to halt it again two hours later.
“We have wood-heated schools without a second shift,” said Hasmik Minasian, the Karabakh education minister. “In other schools we installed stoves for grades 9-12. We will try to organize second shifts for the other students.”
“All schools will probably operate in the coming days,” Minasian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
Karabakh schools had already been shut down for three times since Azerbaijani government-backed protesters blocked on December 12 the sole road connecting Karabakh to Armenia. They were most recently reopened on January 30 after a partial restoration of the gas supply.
Following the February 7 disruption, Karabakh’s leadership urged the international community to exert stronger pressure on Azerbaijan to end the blockade. It accused Baku of trying to create “unbearable” living conditions for the Karabakh Armenians so that they leave their homes.
Russia, the United States and the European Union have repeatedly urged Azerbaijan to reopen the Lachin corridor. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken telephoned Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev for that purpose late last month. Aliyev again defended the Azerbaijanis blocking the corridor and demanding that Baku be given access to “illegal” copper mines in Karabakh.