After a relatively subdued 24-hour ceasefire at the border, Azerbaijani elements of the Armed Forces attempted to infiltrate positions along the border of the Armenian province of Tavush once more in the early morning hours on Thursday.
During an afternoon briefing from the Ijevan Crisis Information Center, Artsrun Hovhannisyan said Armenian forces repelled the overnight attacks launched by about 100 Azeri special forces operators and destroyed a tank as well as heavy artillery pieces. Chinari, Movses, Aygepar, Berd and the villages of Nerkin Karmiraghbyur were the primary targets of the Azeri operation. Tavush Governor Hayk Chobanyan had advised vigilant residents to shelter-in-place as over two dozen homes and buildings were damaged, as well as a waterline and a kindergarten in the village of Aygepar. A car belonging to the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Armenia was also hit by an unmanned Azeri aircraft.
No Armenian casualties have been reported in the aftermath of these attacks, but Armenia’s Ministry of Defense says at least 10 people have been hospitalized for their injuries, including a 48 year-old Chinari resident. Azerbaijan’s forces, however, have suffered an undetermined number of deaths, and according to Defense Ministry Press Secretary Shushan Stepanyan, they have been warned to hold fire to avoid an increase in their death toll. Despite the unconfirmed number of casualties, Armenia’s Armed Forces granted Azeri units permission to collect their dead from the battlefield, bird’s-eye footage of which Stepanyan shared. By Hovhannisyan’s count, the remains of at least 10 Azeri soldiers have been retrieved.
In addition to fighting on the ground, Armenian officials have been forced to contend with misinformation from the Defense Ministry of Azerbaijan and Azeri sources, which have been circulating doctored photographs and spreading misinformation on their progress in the ongoing military operations. Stepanyan, who has been providing regular updates on her Facebook account, flat out denied a claim by Azerbaijan officials that they downed an Armenian-owned X-55 unmanned aerial drone. A spokesperson from Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry is also threatening the destruction of the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant.
Citizens, mostly physicians and war veterans, in bordering villages have been volunteering to take up arms and defend their homeland. But defense officials, though grateful, have given their reassurances that Armenia’s Armed Forces have the situation under control and that there is no need to mobilize more manpower at the moment.
Armenia’s Foreign Ministry, for its part, has called these Azeri military operations “a treacherous violation” of ceasefire agreements. “As a result of its short-sighted policy, the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan is at an impasse and now is resorting to perilous, ill-conceived steps for which it will bear responsibility also before its own people,” read the Armenian Foreign Ministry’s statement. “At this time, efforts aimed at unconditional, complete restoration, preservation and strengthening of the ceasefire are imperative.”
Its Azeri counterpart is now under new leadership after President Ilham Aliyev dismissed longtime Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov. Azerbaijan’s Minister of Education Ceyhun Bayramov has now been appointed to serve in the role. The cabinet shakeup has been looming for weeks amid reports of a corruption investigation into several officials in the Foreign Ministry. Mammadyarov was also absent during yesterday’s cabinet meeting, which Aliyev called “irresponsible.”
Meanwhile back in Yerevan, PM Pashinyan and Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan joined mourners for the funeral services of Major Garush Hambardzumyan. Under Armenia’s beating summer sun at the Yerablur Military Memorial Cemetery, Pashinyan eulogized the fallen military leader, whose body was draped by the Armenian tricolor.
The PM is now in Belarus for the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council in Minsk.