Samvel Shahramanyan, President of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, has issued a decree to disband all governmental institutions with effect from January 1, 2024.
The decision was taken after Azerbaijan’s reconquest of the enclave— part of Azerbaijan under international law but populated by ethnic Armenians and de facto independent for three decades — in a swift military offensive last week. The Azerbaijani victory sparked a mass exodus from the region, and a looming humanitarian disaster, with up to 120,000 ethnic-Armenians, who refer to Karabakh as "Artsakh", heading for neighbouring Armenia.
According to the decree, it was decided to “Dissolve all state institutions and organisations … [on] January 1, 2024, and the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) ceases to exist.” The decree enters force immediately.
A statement posted on social media said the decision to issue the decree was taken “in connection with the current difficult military-political situation, based on the priority of ensuring the physical security and vital interests of the people of Artsakh, taking into account the agreement reached through the mediation of the command of the Russian peacekeeping contingent with the representatives of the Republic of Azerbaijan that free, voluntary and unhindered travel is ensured residents of Nagorno-Karabakh.”
The statement urges the population of the unrecognised republic to “familiarise themselves with the conditions of reintegration presented by the Republic of Azerbaijan, with a view to making an independent and individual decision in the future on the possibility of staying (returning) in Nagorno-Karabakh.”
Azerbaijan launched what proved to be a one-day-long military operation on September 19 against the Karabakh Armenians. After 24 hours of fighting, the separatist forces surrendered and agreed to dissolve their army, thus the end of the internationally unrecognised republic was already signalled.
Yerevan announced on the morning of September 28 that more than 65,000 people have already left Nagorno-Karabakh for Armenia via the Lachin Corridor.
Social media carried photos of huge queues of cars leaving the territory in the direction of Armenia, as refugees flee from areas occupied by Azerbaijani forces, as well as from areas that are poised to be occupied by them.
Meanwhile, ex-advisor to the enclave's de facto president and former foreign minister Davit Babayan has stated that he will turn himself over to the Azerbaijani authorities willingly. "This decision will naturally cause great pain, anxiety and stress, primarily to my loved ones, but I am sure they will understand," he wrote on his Facebook account.