Stepanakert gradually coming back to a peaceful life

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A sculpture near one of the buildings in Stepanakert

© Maxim Grigoryev/TASS

https://tass.com-STEPANAKERT, November 18. /TASS/. The residents of Stepanakert who left are returning to the city, shops are opening, infrastructure is being restored, a TASS correspondent reports. According to Russia’s Defense Ministry, 1,700 residents have returned to the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh since November 14. These are the people who came by bus. In reality, this figure is higher because of those who used private transport. Truth be told, it is also impossible to tell with certainty the number of people who left the city when hostilities broke out.

Tigran

Tigran is one of those who left for Yerevan, but came back. Its five-story panel building is located in the city center next to the Cathedral of the Intercession of the Mother of God. The house was not damaged by shelling, but he, like all Stepanakert residents, knows where the shells fell. “This is where the shell hit the collector (housing services are working nearby), no one was hurt. This is where the shell hit, there was no one in the house then,” he shows the courtyard in which the blast wave turned a Zhiguli car over and tore the walls of the nearest houses apart exposing their life. Pots and other utensils in the kitchen are intact, but covered by a thick layer of whitewash.

“And here three people died: two brothers came to their grandmother, and at that moment they started shooting. The third brother did not go and survived,” Tigran shows a pile of wreckage, in which a two-story house can barely be distinguished.

In another hundred meters, a piece of rocket sticks out of the curb. The asphalt around it was ripped apart and the building was smashed with detritus. A little higher on the mountain, almost an entire rocket of a multiple launch rocket system lies at a cemetery entrance.

Tigran fought for Karabakh in 1992. On the alley in the Azatamartik part (the park of defenders) there is a photograph of him with his battle comrades taken at that time. There he is younger, wearing a camouflage and with a machine gun. He did not take part in the current hostilities, according to Tigran. But his three sons are now serving. Tigran thanks God that they are all alive.

The man speaks about politics with restraint, does not condemn the Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan and often compares the Karabakh people with 300 spartans. Tigran also often thanks the Russian peacekeepers who did not allow the Azerbaijani troops to enter Stepanakert. However he emphasizes: Russians should not die for his compatriots.

“Well, now people are returning, the traffic lights have started working for the third day, the garbage has begun to be taken out, the shops are opening. The life is slowly getting back to normal. I want to believe that there will be no more war,” he sighs and goes to feed rabbits and chickens, which he was asked to do by his Yerevan friends.

Hamlet

It was a pinpoint artillery shelling, aimed at cleaning, military facilities and the local Emergencies Ministry. In the latter, the detritus damaged the existing equipment and a historic fire engine standing on a pedestal. But the shells flew into the private sector as well. One of them set fire to Hamlet’s house.

“It was during the night, we managed to run out, everything was on fire, but the firemen put it out. We were not hurt, it’s a pity we lost the house — it has recently been renovated,” the owner of the house complains.”Only the storage room was left intact”.

Now Hamlet lives at his friends’ and is not going to leave. He is also not in a hurry to rebuild the house – there may be another shelling. He, like many residents of Stepanakert, hopes for peacekeepers who will stop the war.

In his garden, the persimmon is already ripe, pomegranate — in the neighbors’s garden. Overripe fruits that have fallen to the ground are eaten by hungry dogs. There are a lot of such animals in the city, probably, they had it even worse than the owners. They do not find food in garbage bins and wander in small flocks around the city searching for food. “We always had a lot of dogs and cats, we kept a lot, but now we left and released them,” explains Hamlet.

The shells even flew into the building of the republican hospital under construction. Broken green glass covers the courtyard, the wind flutters the sheeting that covered the broken roof. Inside, almost everything was already ready to receive patients. Now two wild tabby kittens are sleeping in a hospital bed, running away at the sight of a person.

But the hospital itself continues to operate. There is a maternity ward in the basement of the unfinished building. The main building continues to receive patients. The windows of the hospital are lined with soil bags so as not to be knocked out during shelling. Doctors are in a hurry on business, they are guarded by armed soldiers.

Tamara

A few days ago nothing worked in Stepanakert. There were interruptions in water supply and electricity. It is very difficult with heating, and many people heat their apartments with small stoves. Finding a working Wi-Fi is a great success. It is the same with cellular communication – it comes and goes . They promise to fix it within a week, but things are moving very slowly. Banks are not working, there are lines at the head office of Artsakh Bank for money. On a nearby street, people lining up to get humanitarian aid.

Big shops are gradually opening, small shops are still closed. Many were closed in a hurry and their goods are right on the streets. The fruits are already rotten, and the contents of the refrigerators have melted and deteriorated. But no one steals what is still intact – it is not customary here to take something that belongs to someone else, even if they have no food at home.

Tamara, the owner of one of such shops, is sorting bottles in the refrigerator. She is in no hurry to open – there is nowhere to get new supplies from. “I’ll seal the windows now, suddenly there will be shelling. And in a week, with God’s help, the goods will be delivered,” the woman smiles.

She scolds politicians eloquently and wonders why it is impossible to live in peace. She is even ready to forgive Azerbaijanis and live with them, as during the Soviet years. If only there was no war and no one died. “Tell me, what are they thinking in their offices? Do they not know that living and breathing people are living here? Well, let’s divide Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh Republic – TASS). But where is the guarantee that there will be no war later? And Russia will not be able to protect us here forever,” an outraged Tamara said.

Greta

Nobody is ready to put up with the status quo. Greta, a Shusha resident, which is under the control of Azerbaijan, now lives and works in a hotel in Stepanakert. When the city was evacuated, she took only essentials with her, but now she is worried about the property she left behind. “I have flash drives in my closet, are all the photographs are there. Could you please take them if you are in Shusha? And the rest is yours,” she asks journalists, showing them where the house is.

But no one can promise her anything: the military does not allow journalists into this city. And no one knows what is going on there, there is no news, not even rumors about the situation in the city. Everyone knows only that the signs with in Armenian are changed to the ones in Azerbaijani. Journalists grumble that due to the closed nature of the Azerbaijani side, the conflict’s coverage is one-sided.

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