The biggest escalation since 2020: dozens of people killed in Nagorno-Karabakh as a result of fighting, ceasefire declared
On Monday, September 19, Azerbaijan announced the launch of an anti-terrorist operation in Nagorno-Karabakh, which resulted in the largest escalation since 2020. Following the first day of hostilities, representatives of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) reported 27 dead and more than 200 wounded, and protests broke out in Yerevan demanding a response to Baku's actions.
Azerbaijan, for its part, reported on the destroyed equipment, the taking of positions, and its proximity to the "fulfillment" of its tasks. Starting at 13:00 on Wednesday, September 20, the parties agreed to a ceasefire. OBOZREVATEL talks about the current situation in Karabakh, the world's reaction to the conflict, and why Moscow was forced to justify itself to Armenia.
On the afternoon of September 20, the authorities of unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh announced a decision to establish a ceasefire from 13:00 on Wednesday, September 20 (12:00 Kyiv time).
According to the press service of the Karabakh separatists:
- "The 'Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army' will be completely disbanded and disarmed,
- heavy equipment and weapons will be removed from the territory of Karabakh and utilized;
- the issues raised by Azerbaijan on the reintegration, rights and security of Karabakh Armenians, and the life of the population of Karabakh within the framework of the Constitution of Azerbaijan, according to the agreement reached, will be discussed at a meeting of representatives of local Armenians and the central authorities of Azerbaijan in the city of Yevlakh on September 21 and during subsequent meetings.
A photo of Armenians gathered at the Stepanakert airport to fly out of the region after the surrender of the Nagorno-Karabakh separatists was posted online.
Under the terms of the agreement, Azerbaijan is to provide a corridor for the evacuation of residents and the remnants of the Karabakh army.
Results of the first day of Azerbaijan's operation in Karabakh
Former Prime Minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Ruben Vardanyan accused Azerbaijan of massive artillery shelling of civilian buildings in the republic's "capital" Stepanakert and other cities of Karabakh. According to him, there are wounded among children. He called what was happening "a continuation of genocide" and called on Armenia to recognize Artsakh (NKR) and "join the defense of its citizens."
The unrecognized republic's ombudsman, Gegham Stepanyan, reported 27 dead, including two civilians, and more than 200 wounded, including 12 children. According to him, residents of Karabakh are hiding in basements without electricity, communication and food.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that there are no Armenian armed forces in Nagorno-Karabakh and accused Baku of "ethnic cleansing of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh". At the same time, he promised that Armenia would not interfere in the conflict, despite attempts by "internal and external forces" to involve it. Pashinyan called on the Russian peacekeeping forces and the UN Security Council to take action.
In addition, the press service of the Office of the Representative of Armenia for International Legal Affairs reported that Yerevan had appealed to the ECHR to oblige Azerbaijan to stop shelling civilian objects in Nagorno-Karabakh.
"In particular, a demand has been made to oblige Azerbaijan to stop shelling all civilian objects, settlements and the population," the statement said.
In its turn, by the evening of September 19, Azerbaijan reported that it had taken control of more than 60 combat positions and neutralized up to 20 combat vehicles, 40 artillery pieces and two anti-aircraft missile systems allegedly belonging to the Armenian army.
Azerbaijani presidential aide Hikmet Hajiyev told Turkish TV channel TRT that the tasks of the anti-terrorist operation are "close to being completed."
The Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense demonstrated one of the strikes on "a combat position of the Armenian Armed Forces with reserve ammunition".
Protests in Yerevan
On the afternoon of September 19, people began to gather near the Armenian government in Yerevan, demanding a response to Azerbaijan's actions in Nagorno-Karabakh. The protesters tried to enter the building, but the police surrounded it, and clashes broke out.
By the end of the day, the Armenian Ministry of Health reported 34 injuries among protesters and police. Late in the evening, protesters began to set up tents on the square in front of the government.
According to Sputnik Armenia, 16 people were detained during the protests: 11 of them near the government building, and 5 more for administrative violations near the Russian Embassy.
The United States supports Armenia
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called on Azerbaijan to immediately cease hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh and emphasized the importance of de-escalating the conflict.
The Secretary of State held phone conversations with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
"I spoke with Azerbaijani President Aliyev today and urged him to immediately stop the hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh. It is extremely important for Azerbaijan to de-escalate the situation in order to facilitate a peaceful resolution of the conflict," Blinken said on the evening of September 19.
Aliyev, for his part, "expressed readiness" to stop the operation and hold a meeting with representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh, the State Department said.
During the conversation with Pashinyan, Blinken "expressed deep concern" about Azerbaijan's military actions. "The United States calls for an immediate end to this unacceptable military action," he said.
Blinken also told Pashinyan that Yerevan has Washington's full support.
Shame on the Kremlin
Announcing the anti-terrorist operation in Nagorno-Karabakh, Baku noted that the military actions were coordinated with Russia, whose military are present in Karabakh as peacekeepers. At the same time, official Yerevan said that Russia had not informed Armenia of Azerbaijan's intention to start hostilities in Karabakh. And Armenian radical Telegram channels accused Russian peacekeepers of fleeing.
In response, Moscow said that Baku had warned the Kremlin about the operation only minutes before it began. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Russia was "alarmed" and called on the parties to stop the bloodshed. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the Kremlin is in touch with Baku and Yerevan and is making attempts to return the situation to the mainstream of diplomacy.
Meanwhile, the Western media saw Russia's failure in the situation in Karabakh. According to The New York Times, the escalation of the situation between Armenia and Azerbaijan has become "an embarrassment to the Kremlin." The journalists remind that just a day before the escalation, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported an improvement in the humanitarian situation and was optimistic about the possibility of negotiations.
And the Financial Times article says that the conflict shows how Moscow, which was a traditional mediator in the region, is losing its influence after the invasion of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine urged Ukrainians to refrain from visiting Nagorno-Karabakh and to avoid crowded places in Armenian cities, particularly Yerevan.
In case of an emergency, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised to contact the round-the-clock hotline of the Embassy of Ukraine in Armenia +374 7710 0273 or the hotline of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine +38 044 238 1588.
As reported by OBOZREVATEL:
- ISW analysts noted that the Russian Federation is losing influence in Nagorno-Karabakh and is unlikely to send forces there amid the war against Ukraine. Moscow has demonstratively "abandoned" its allies.
- Oleksiy Danilov, Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, is confident that Russia will simply surrender Armenia, as it often abandons its partners and fails to fulfill its obligations. According to him, today Russia is too weak to support Armenia in the battles in Nagorno-Karabakh.