By Ruslan Rehimov
BAKU, Azerbaijan (AA) - Homes and forests are being set ablaze in the Azerbaijani border region of Lachin by illegally settled Armenians as they leave the region, showed recent captured footage.
Despite successive warnings not to burn their homes or harm the environment, images have been circulating on social media showing some Armenians burning their houses and nearby forests.
Footage showed Armenians setting fire to their homes in the city of Lachin and nearby villages of Zabuh and Sus, along with the surrounding forestland.
Azerbaijan is set to retake control of Lachin, which lies on the route between the city of Khankendi in Karabakh and Armenia, at the end of this month, in accordance with a joint declaration signed by Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Russian troops and the Armenian population will leave the areas along the route known as the "Lachin corridor," where Lachin, Zabuh, and Sus are located and which was temporarily put under Russian control in accordance with the tripartite declaration signed on Nov. 10, 2020 after 44 days of conflict.
As part of the declaration, Azerbaijan built 32 kilometers (20 miles) of road passing around Lachin for the Armenian population in Karabakh to use on their way to and from Armenia.
Russian forces providing security on the route of the old Lachin corridor will also move the checkpoints to the new road.
Lachin and its villages were occupied by the Armenian army in 1992, and then Armenians brought from Syria and Lebanon were settled there in the following years. Throughout the process, Azerbaijan has declared that it sees this as a war crime and violation of the Geneva Conventions.
According to information from the Armenian press and social media, the Armenian population that settled in Lachin and Zabuh and Sus was warned to leave the region by Aug. 25. They will be able to settle in either Armenia or Khankendi and will receive financial assistance from Yerevan.
Relations between the former Soviet republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Upper Karabakh, a territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions.
As new clashes erupted in September 2020, the ensuing conflict saw Azerbaijan liberate several cities and over 300 settlements and villages that were occupied by Armenia for almost 30 years.
The fighting ended in November 2020 with a deal brokered by Russia that saw Armenia cede chunks of the territory it had occupied for decades.
In January 2021, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Russia agreed to develop economic ties and infrastructure for the benefit of the entire region.
*Writing by Gozde Bayar