Armenians are heading to the polls in elections called after a disastrous war with Azerbaijan. Armenia lost large swathes of territory in the long-disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region in a ceasefire agreement.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is hoping to renew his mandate, but his popularity has dropped after he signed the truce brokered by Russia. Observers warn the conflict could easily flare up again. And there have been reports of unrest at polling booths.
Almost three thousand meters above sea level – but only a few meters apart, Armenian and Azeri soldiers stare each other down. Just a matter of months after a brutal war saw thousands killed and war crimes committed against prisoners. At this proximity, tempers can flare. Commanders eventually put an end to this brawl but recent weeks have seen repeated shooting and Armenian soldiers kidnapped.
It’s a pattern repeated up and down Armenia’s hundreds of kilometers long border with Azerbaijan. Until last autumn’s ceasefire the two countries’ international border was in practice little more than a line on the map – Armenia controlled both sides of the frontier as part of a buffer zone around Nagorno-Karabakh.
The problem now is that these two adversaries have very different ideas as to where their new border posts should be. Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of moving its positions deep into Armenian territory.
The Azeris say they have different maps dating back to the 1980s. Maps which show a very different border line.
Down below in the Armenian border village of Kut, locals can hear the shooting in the mountains, but for some it’s more personal than that,
Herders are too scared to take their cows up to their usual mountain pastures to graze, after Azeri forces shot at herders and their cows wandered away – a tragedy for villagers surviving on little else.
In many Armenian border villages, most people were born in Azerbaijan, a refugee from the two countries’ first conflict back in the late 1980s. For them, the war has never really ended, merely been paused. Some ceasefires have lasted for years, some just hours. The current ceasefire is looking more precarious by the day.
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