Artsakh at the Ready: Volunteers Report to Duty, PM Spends Nights on Front Line

STEPANAKERT (A.W.)—Following a string of attacks along the contact line by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, Nagorno Karabakh Republic (NKR) Prime Minister Ara Harutyunyan spent the nights of August 3 and 4 visiting with soldiers on the front line. The attacks that began on July 28, left five Armenian and 13 Azeri servicemen dead, according to official figures provided by the Defense Ministries of each side. With the escalating tensions, hundreds of volunteers from across NKR reported for duty. However, Artak Beglaryan, spokesperson for the Prime Minister, believes the worst is over, as neither side would wish to see an all-out war.

NKR Prime Minister Ara Harutyunyan spent the nights of August 3 and 4 visiting with soldiers on the front line. (Photo by Artak Beglaryan)
NKR Prime Minister Ara Harutyunyan spent the nights of August 3 and 4 visiting with soldiers on the front line. 

According to official Artsakh, since July 28, Azeri Armed Forces have staged over half a dozen attacks, targeting the Martakert, Martuni, Askeran, and Gulistan regions, while suffering heavy losses. In response to the surge in violence, Prime Minister Harutyunyan took it upon himself to personally pay a visit to the soldiers embedded on the line of contact—a move that encapsulates the general mood in NKR from gratefulness for the soldiers’ sacrifice to a willingness to (literally) stand by the servicemen, even if only for moral support.

“For two nights, Prime Minister Ara Harutyunyan visited the front lines and encouraged the soldiers and volunteers. Everywhere the mood was high. [Soldiers] are ready to guard the homeland. The Prime Minister’s presence lifted their spirits; they realize that the entire society and the authorities are backing them,” Beglaryan told the Armenian Weekly.

Prime Minister Harutyunyan is not alone in heading to the front lines. Scores of volunteers have come forward as well. Among them are two disabled Artsakh war veterans who wished to stand by their sons serving on the front lines.

“Volunteers have come forward spontaneously, as a natural response to the real threat from Azerbaijan. The government has welcomed them, and deployed some of them on different parts of the front line. There are many volunteers who have not been sent to their positions, because there is no need. The main purpose of the volunteers’ deployment is moral support for the soldiers, rather than providing military support. The volunteers are coming from all the corners of Artsakh—towns and villages,” Beglaryan told the Weekly.

Despite the rapid civilian response, the situation appears to be stable, and Beglaryan believes the worst is now behind them. “The tension is decreasing now, because the wave of diversions has calmed down in the past two days,” he said, adding that the de-escalation was probably due to both the “sharp” Armenian reaction, as well as the international response to the violence.

“I don’t see any significant chance of further escalation, because the military balance is being maintained between the Armenian and Azerbaijani armies, and the international and regional environments are not beneficial to large-scale clashes,” added Beglaryan.

U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf released a statement on Aug. 1 expressing U.S. “concern about the escalation of violence,” extending “condolences to the families of those killed or injured,” and calling for both sides to “respect the cease-fire.” Harf stressed that there can be no military solution, urged the Armenian and Azeri Presidents to meet as early as possible and “resume dialogue on key issues,” and called on both countries to work with the OSCE towards a peaceful solution.

In response, Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Executive Director Aram Hamparian issued a statement also on Aug. 1, criticizing “the OSCE Minsk Group’s unwillingness to clearly condemn Azerbaijani military strikes [which] has fostered a dangerous atmosphere of impunity that has clearly contributed to this recent escalation of violence.  It is time for peace negotiators to break their bad habit of answering Aliyev’s every assault with artificial even-handedness and diplomatic double-talk.”

Similarly, the Bureau of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation issued a statement on Aug. 4 calling on “the [OSCE Minsk Group] Co-chairmen to refrain from generalizations, which embolden the actual culprit to escape from responsibility and allow it to become more relentless.” The statement also called for a resumption of negotiations “with the full participation of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, and the signing of a non-aggression agreement.”

Meanwhile, on Aug. 3, Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry, which attributes the escalation in violence to preemptive Armenian attacks, urged the international community to apply “substantial sanctions” against Armenia.

Armenia’s Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan, on the other hand, blamed Baku for the violence, but expressed regret for all those killed. “Armenia’s Defense Ministry regrets the human losses on both sides, the responsibility of which solely lies on the conscience of Azerbaijan’s political and military leadership. As always, Azerbaijan’s authorities see no value in the lives of their own soldiers,” read the statement released on Aug. 3.

Later this week, Armenia’s President Serge Sarkisian and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev are scheduled to meet in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi. How that unfolds remains to be seen.

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Nanore Barsoumian

Nanore Barsoumian was the editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2014 to 2016. She served as assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2010 to 2014. Her writings focus on human rights, politics, poverty, and environmental and gender issues. She has reported from Armenia, Nagorno-Karabagh, Javakhk and Turkey. She earned her B.A. degree in Political Science and English and her M.A. in Conflict Resolution from the University of Massachusetts (Boston).
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@NanoreB

Beirut-Born, Boston-Based | RT Not Endorsement | The pen is mightier than the sword
RT @ZMnatsakanyan: Significant escalation in the east of #NagornoKarabakh yesterday & today. #Azerbaijan violates ceasefire with the use of… - 5 months ago
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16 Comments

  1. As an aside, notice that Azeris attack Armenia proper, but Russia, which has a mutual defense treaty with Armenia, does nothing.

    Russia wants a new Artsakh war as it would cause the western bound pipelines to be cut.

    • Good point. Which can be filed under “what else is new?” Russia has always pursued its own interests and has sacrificed Armenia when needed (how did the Genocide happen just miles from the Russian troops in 1915?). The solution for Armenia is to be self-reliant, which can only be done when Armenia is strong. Which will only happen when Armenians are willing to live in, work in, and die for Armenia. Which will only happen when Armenia becomes a democracy.

    • To be fair, Russia’s mutual defense treaty with Armenia applies to attacks from countries outside the Commonwealth of Independent States, of which Azerbaijan is a member.

    • What a joke! So CIS member states can attack each other and nobody lifts a finger. How wonderful!

    • You Russophobes need to get your facts straight. If Armenia is attacked it must ask for assistance from Russia. Armenia did no such thing therefore its CSTO partners are not obligated to assist. When Armenia feels the need it will call for backing from Russia and the rest of the CSTO. Unlike, Western backed Georgia and Azerbaijan, Armenia has a real military which can handle its own affairs. Thank God!

    • Vahe,

      If Armenia is fully capable of defending itself against an attack by Azerbaijan, then what need is there for Russia to join in? That’s the reason why the Russian military troops are stationed over by the border with Turkey, as opposed to the border with Azerbaijan.

      In terms of Russia wanting a new Artsakh War, that might possibly be true. After all, the Russians know that if a war breaks out, the Armenians can easily knock out Azerbaijan’s oil and gas pipelines within two days. As a result, Azerbaijan would end up in total ruin. And this, of course, explains the reason why Azerbaijan’s two pimps, United States and Europe, don’t want a new war; because if there ends up being a new war, their oil investments in Azerbaijan will all end up inside the toilet.

  2. Most likely it is the approaching date of the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide,that great Turkey supports-encourages and incites the little brother to start increasingly more skirmishes on the front line of both Ra and Artsakh.this , indeed to divert attn from said 100th Anniversary commemoration acts that Armenians will organize throughout the world important cities….
    In brief,great brother is very uneasy and only venue in order to NOT TO ATTRACT world attn on them as against Armenia/Armenians is to instigate the little brother to keep up said incursions etc.,
    Armenians ought to start thinking very seriously in this respect.
    Best is to re-organize the diaspora to become a Super-Structure with a Supreme council that I have repeatedly suggested.
    With Five depts.Legal-Political in Strasbourg or Brussels next to RA delegate(not sitting together,but in town.Executive in NY-as above-thenthe Economic in Genva CH(future Investment Foundation.Social relations and future Repatriation organizing n in Moscow(near abroad, the Spiritural in st. Etchmiadzin in conjunction with great House of Cilicia.
    The diaspora sometimes must also now and then show its POWER as dispersed all over because of the Genocide. A Nation split in two …Time to act it now.
    Barev/Parev hasgcoghin

  3. We may be revisiting the events of 1921 /23 Armenians didn’t have anything to offer we were only able to establish our lost homeland after seven centuries of slavery under the Ottoman rule…Now it is a complete different situation even if Russia is doing everything to downplay Armenia’s significance in the region. Armenia’s interests has to be order #1
    Armenians have tasted Russia’s way of being fair
    At the loss of NAKHITCHEVAN AND NAGORNO GHARABAGH

  4. Vahagn,
    Armenians are rely on their own and we don’t care, for US democracy or Russia’s Oligarchy..we need to have a strong army, in order to prevent a new invasion by Turkic herds. You are right about 1915 Genocide, therefor this will never going to happen. The main goal for Armenia unlike Axerbaijani oppressive regime, is defend the country and have a strong army, which they are in a very satisfactory condition, as of today!

    • No, we Armenians actually care about the U.S. democracy. That is why many Armenians do everything they can to live under the U.S. democracy. Armenians need democracy to be strong. If democracy made the U.S. strong, it can make Armenia strong.

      We don’t know if Armenia’s army is in “satisfactory” condition. We will not know until it is tested in a new war. In the summer of 1920, Armenia’s army was considered the strongest in the Caucasus. A few months later it crumbled and gave up Kars virtually without a fight.

      What we do know is that many Armenian parents pay whatever they can to keep their children away from the Armenian army. We also know why: abuse and killings of soldiers, “suicides” (really, murders), and rapes. We also know (from mass emigration) that much of the population is sick of the government and can’t wait to leave the country. So, no, patriotic, concerned, thinking Armenians really do care about democracy.

  5. this is all up to every single Armenians around the world and no one can blaim others for something we have neglected for so long to creat our own country and work for it instead living in our diaspora cacoon and expect others to do protect our land . To succeed we need populate the lands and build the country and strength the military by numbers and 7 million out of country is a force that no any Azeri or even Turkey will mess with and we will take more our lands back as well, all the way to the sea where our nation can trade and prosper. If Israel did it we can too ! just believe in your strength and sacrifise for what you think it is yours .

  6. — U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf released a statement… extending “condolences to the families of those killed or injured,” —

    So it doesn’t matter who those Azeris were and why they were killed. I didn’t know the State Department now extends condolences for terrorists who invade peaceful Armenians with the sole intention to bring harm any way possible.

    Isn’t it only fair that Marie Harf start extending condolences to the families of terrorists who died in places like Gitmo, Iraq, Afghanistan etc?

  7. 1. [Myths and Realities of Azerbaijani Army](by Zaur Nasirli @Faktxeber.com 2013 (in Russian))

    {At first I would like to dispel the myth that having a military budget of 3.7 billion. Dollars, we will surely crush Armenia’s military budget which is only 412 million. Dollars. Yes, our military spending 7 times greater than the military budget of Armenia, and generally exceed its entire budget, but, unfortunately, it may not mean anything. }
    {So far it is advisable to speak with such certainty about the inevitable victory over Armenia? Deposit strong army – it is not money, and professionalism, combat capability, high-quality training of soldiers and their morale. Could not be said about our army , which still reigns hazing, and morale of the soldiers and their training is almost zero. Everyone tries by all means to avoid military service because of the appalling conditions in the army. Soldiers after service swear that for them the concept of “fight for the Motherland” not worth a penny.}

    “Everyone tries by all means to avoid military service because of the appalling conditions in the army”.

    Say what ?

    “Everyone tries by all means to avoid military service because of the appalling conditions in the (Turkbaijani) army”.

    2. [Azerbaijan sells soldiers’ body parts, slain serviceman’s mother reveals](panarmenian.net, August 6, 2012).

    {Dead Azerbaijani soldier’s mother Kifayat Iskanderli said that body parts of her son and eight other servicemen were sold abroad.
    Though suicide was announced as the official reason behind soldier of Azeri armed forces Parviz Iskanderli’s death, his mother noted that four officers beat him to death, hanging him on a tree afterwards.
    According to Kifayat Iskanderli, her son’s body was brutally beaten up, with the body parts removed.
    “Eighth soldiers have recently died under suspicious circumstances, with their body parts sold abroad,” the slain soldier’s mother said, adding that her son’s overhearing a confidential conversation between two officers served a reason for killing him, Azeri newspaper Bizim Yol reported.}

    3. [Azeri organ trafficking scandal: heart, liver removed from soldier’s dead body](panarmenian.net September 8, 2012).

    {Zerkalo Azeri newspaper has released а statement by the mother of Azeri soldier Irada Mamedova.
    According to Ms. Mamedova’s report, the dead body of her son who was claimed to have committed a suicide was brought to her by a civilian who demanded to bury him at once.
    Having learnt the news on trafficking of organs removed from dead soldier, Ms. Mamedova demanded to exhume the remains of her son.
    As it was discovered during an autopsy, Ismail’s heart and liver were removed from the dead soldier’s body.
    “Further, the investigator was trying to persuade me that Ismail’s missing organs simply decayed.”}

    4. [Repin.info: Situation related to sexual offences in Azerbaijani army is shocking] (Panorama 2013)

    {In 2011, while in the hospital Yusuf Geybatzade repeatedly beat and raped another soldier who was being treated too. When another soldier saw all this, Gaybatzade beat him too. This soldier reported to the commander of his squadron and the case was transferred to the military prosecutor’s office. Finally Ganja military court sentenced the offender to eight years in prison for the torture and abuse of his comrade-in-arms. “There is no concept of male-rape in the Azerbaijani judicial system,” the author explains.

    The article noted that the Gaybatzade case was not the first in the Azerbaijani army. Thus in August 2010, three Azerbaijani servicemen – Askerov, Shirinov and Mehtiev were convicted for sexual offence, extortion and hazing towards their comrades-in-arms. In April of the same year junior sergeant Arif Gurbanov was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment for regular sexual offences towards his comrades-in-arms. In 2011, Senior Sergeant Mammadov and Pvt. Huseynov have been convicted for two and a half years imprisonment for committing sexual offence towards ten of their comrades-in-arms. “It’s noteworthy that Huseynov’s punishment was later reduced to nine months,” the author writes.

    “But the most amazing case was that of Emin Rahimov’s, Togrul Bagirov’s and Yusif Yusifov’s. These three magic heroes raped the whole platoon. There were 28 victims found in this case. Factually three amative soldiers turned the whole platoon into their harem, and enjoy their sexual services at any time they wished,” the author notes, and stresses that all this was taking place during passing the military service in the post on the border with Nagorno-Karabakh.}
    …….
    {To the question, how does the leadership of Azerbaijani army respond to these egregious facts, the author quotes the words of the head of the press service of the Defense Ministry of Azerbaijan, Colonel-General Eldar Sabiroglu: “It is not violence; the amount of testosterone in the blood of the youngsters increases because of the good food. That is, cases of sexual offence in Azerbaijani Armed Forces are eloquent testimony of good nutrition of our soldiers. Notice, that the Armenians do not rape the young. This is the first sign that the Armenian soldiers are starving.”}

  8. Would people stop writing stupid comments that Armenians are neglecting Armenia by not moving there and building the country from within. Here is the reality. Many Armenians from the diaspora, myself included, would not survive in a country like Armenia. First of all, I can barely speak Western Armenian let alone comprehend the Eastern dialect. Armenia has a totally different culture and society including its laws and customs compared to Western nations.

    I support Armenia and Armenians by whatever means I can, such as donating money to charities for example and supporting political causes. What more can I do?

    I find it ridiculous how some stupid people behind their computer and most likely from Western nations are criticizing the diaspora for not moving to Armenia as if it is some huge shame. Even some if not the majority of the Syrian Armenians fleeing war do not stay in Armenia long, what does that tell you!

  9. After doing some further reading on the recent Azerbaijani large-scale offensive of the past week, I found out that the Azeris launched a total of twenty raids in that particular offensive which were all squashed by the Armenian soldiers. That is truly impressive! This again comes to show the high-level condition of the combined armed forces of Armenia and Artsakh. By the way, the figure for the number of Azeris killed, is not 13. The number is 25. Even after Azerbaijan’s humiliation in its failed offensive, there seem to be quite a few Azeris who are attempting to paint a horribly false picture of the Armenian army as committing abuse, rape, and murders on its own soldiers. Well, if that were the case, then what explains the reason for the Armenia/Artsakh army’s success in being able to squash every single thing the Azeris launch, including 20 raids in a row? In order to achieve these amazing results, soldiers must be in the best condition. And because of its high-level condition, the Armenia/Artsakh army is ready for anything Azerbaijan pulls out of its bag. As a matter of fact, following Azerbaijan’s latest terrorist attack, a huge number of volunteers have come forward, wishing to serve in the Artsakh Defense Army. As a result, the Artsakh Defense Army will be even stronger now.

    I really admire the deeply united, close-knit society of Artsakh. It has really blossomed over the past twenty years. And the reason for this, has to do with its adherence to true democracy unlike the make-believe, fake democracy of the West. If Armenia were to adopt Artsakh’s true democratic values, it too would begin to also blossom.

    • While the Armenian soldiers are dedicated and well trained, they also have the advantage of being in the defensive positions when the Azeris are attacking. Some Armenian soldiers have been killed while driving on the roads that are within sniper range.

      The Azeris are also claiming 71 Armenians killed, which is plainly false. I don’t think you can even hide such number of deaths.

      The other sad thing is, there has been hazing and non-combat deaths in the Armenian army over the years and reported in the Armenian media. Such things happen in any military. The Armenian defense minister has said in the past that this issue is being addressed. I don’t know how bad it is at the moment but any military that is prepared to deal with this issue is better off for it.

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