Arson, Shooting Prompt Curfew in Soviet Enclave
Communist officials in the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh imposed a curfew and banned gatherings to cool ethnic passions after a night of shooting and arson in the troubled Armenian enclave, the official Tass news agency reported Wednesday.
Rioters burned homes and cars and gunfire echoed throughout Stepanakert, the territory’s largest city, during the night, Tass said. It said no one was injured in the disturbances.
Stepanakert and the Agdam district in Nagorno-Karabakh were placed on a “special status,” lower than a state of emergency, and a curfew was imposed, Tass said.
The agency said the new measures were announced in an address on local radio and television by Arkady I. Volsky, a Kremlin envoy charged in July with the task of restoring order in Armenia and Azerbaijan after five months of unrest.
Volsky, a member of the party’s policy-making Central Committee, was sent to oversee the restoration of order in Nagorno-Karabakh after the Kremlin refused to allow the transfer of the region to neighboring Armenia. Nagorno-Karabakh is populated mainly by Christian Armenians, while Azerbaijan is predominantly Muslim.
In Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, officials rejected a demand by thousands of protesters for a new meeting of the republic’s Supreme Soviet, or Parliament, to renew a petition for annexation of Nagorno-Karabakh.
“There are hundreds of thousands of people in front of the Supreme Soviet,” said Arpenay Popoyan, wife of activist and former political prisoner Rafael Popoyan, in a telephone interview from Yerevan. “The city is very tense.”
A general strike that began Sept. 16 is continuing, she said.
The Soviet government Wednesday banned foreign journalists from traveling to Yerevan from Tbilisi, the capital of Soviet Georgia, for “temporary reasons.”
Clash on Sunday
The Tass report did not refer to clashes on Sunday between Azerbaijanis and Armenians using guns and knives in the village of Khadzhaly, near Stepanakert. One Armenia died in the violence and 24 people were injured.
Activists also said a bomb exploded Monday at a dormitory for Armenian construction workers near Stepanakert.
“All this created an alarming situation. Many residents in the central city of Stepanakert and rural regions are worried about their safety,” Tass said.
Tass did not say whether Armenians, Azerbaijanis or both were behind the violence.
It said homes and cars were set afire in Nagorno-Karabakh on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning and that shots were heard. Factories, schools and transportation companies were closed in Stepanakert, it said.
Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze, speaking in Copenhagen on his way to talks in Washington, said without elaborating that the Kremlin is considering the use of “some emergency action” to deal with the unrest.
The tension in the region has posed one of the Soviet leadership’s most persistent problems since the protests began.