In war-hit Karabakh capital, residents inspect destroyed homes

Guennadi Avanessian had a big two-storey house at 28 Saroyan Street, with a wooden terrace and vines laden with dark grapes.

But his comfortable middle-class home in a well-off street in the capital of war-hit Nagorno-Karabakh region has been smashed to pieces during the conflict between neighbouring Azerbaijan and Armenia.

“I spent two years renovating this house with my own hands, and (Azerbaijani president) Aliyev destroyed it in two seconds with his bombs,” Avanessian rages to anyone who will listen from behind his moustache.

With a blue hat on his head, the 70-something clambers onto the huge heap of debris that is all that remains after the gutted house collapsed in on itself.

With a shovel, he searches through the twisted sheet metal, bits and pieces of the home’s structure and traces of his former life.

Azerbaijani forces bombarded the area a week ago, and it is the first time Avanessian has returned.

He is looking to scrape together whatever can be salvaged during a lull in the fighting after a ceasefire came into force on Saturday at noon.

“I was here when the rocket came down. I heard a whistle and I rushed into the cellar. I was two seconds away from being killed,” he recalls.

His son-in-law, also in the house that day, got away with an injury — a minor miracle given the total destruction visited on the house.

“It’s a Smerch rocket that did this,” Avanessian says, referring to the Soviet-era “Tornado” projectiles that have been falling throughout Karabakh’s largest city during the past week of fighting over the ethnic Armenian breakaway territory.

“Where will I live now? Under the stars, under the rain? I had everything and now I have nothing left, I can’t find anything. Everything’s blown apart. The only thing I could find was a suitcase with children’s clothes,” he laments, showing off the battered, ancient bag.

“How can one man do this to another? Aliyev, you say that Karabakh is Azerbaijan. If I live in Azerbaijan, why have you bombed my house?” asks Avanessian.

“I built this house to live in peace and they’ve destroyed it. The Azerbaijanis are bombing civilians. They’re murderers, extremists!”

Neither does the retired police officer spare Turkey that has encouraged its ally Azerbaijan during the fighting.

“A curse on Erdogan!” he tells AFP’s reporter and photographer, heaping insults on the Turkish president.

“If you were here in front of me, I’d hack you to death with an axe.”


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