Armenia Obliterates Azeri Drones Over Provinces Near Yerevan as World Leaders Urge a Ceasefire

YEREVAN—Armenia’s Air Defense Forces eliminated a group of four Azeri drones appearing in the night sky above the Armenian provinces of Kotayk and Gegharkunik in the midnight hours on Thursday. The downing of the UAVs occurred 52 kilometers from Armenia’s capital of Yerevan. 

Adding to the intensifying tensions on the fifth day of fighting, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan—a steadfast supporter of Azerbaijan’s incursion—rejected a joint call by the presidents of France, Russia and the United States for an immediate ceasefire. Erdogan said he is demanding “a full Armenian withdrawal from the occupied territories [Artsakh]” as a condition for backing the ceasefire. “We call on all sides, especially partner countries such as Turkey to do all they can for a ceasefire and get back to a peaceful settlement of this conflict using political and diplomatic means,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

The Turkish President’s provocative statements were met with consternation among NATO allies, as well as officials in Yerevan. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan accused Turkey of sponsoring international terrorism, referring to the Turkish-trained Syrian jihadist militants currently employed by Azerbaijan—an issue that was also brought up during a phone call between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Turkish homologue. “The inadmissibility of the involvement of militants of illegal armed formations from other regions in the conflict was emphasized,” read a statement.

The presence of Syrian jihadists fighting for Azerbaijan has already been confirmed by numerous independent sources, but received more weight with an announcement by France on Thursday. Speaking from Brussels, French President Emmanuel Macron announced, “I want to be extremely clear, today, we are in possession of irrefutable evidence that Jihadist militants have left the operational theater of Syria, and traveled through Gaziantep (in Turkey) to take part in the operational theater of Nagorno Karabakh.” Macron described these developments as “groundbreaking” and said it would be discussed at the European Council. 

During an evening press conference, spokesperson for the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Anna Naghdalyan announced that Armenia has recalled its ambassador to Israel for consultation over Israeli arms sales to Azerbaijan. “The supply of state-of-the-art Israeli weapons to Azerbaijan is especially regretful at a time when, backed by Turkey, Azerbaijan is carrying out large-scale aggression against Armenia and Artsakh,” stated Naghdalyan. Azeri presidential aide Hikmet Hajiyev stated during an interview that the Azeri military has been using Israel-made attack drones in strikes against Armenian forces. 

With tensions between the Armenian and Azeri minorities continuing to rise in Georgia, hostilities in Artsakh have triggered violent protests among Iran’s large Azeri minority as well. Despite COVID-19-related restrictions, videos from Iran purportedly depicting ethnic Azeris rioting in the Iranian cities of Tabriz, Urmia, Meshgin Shahr, Ardabil and Tehran have been shared extensively on social media. Some ethnic Azeris called for demonstrations in front of Armenian churches, businesses and consular offices across Iran. BBC Persian also reported that representatives of several Azeri-majority provinces in northwestern Iran called on the Ayatollah to formally support Azerbaijan’s claim to Artsakh and close the Norduz border crossing to Armenia. Iran has allegedly served as a transit country for Russian military equipment—mostly heavy trucks—to Armenia.

Meanwhile, Armenian forces have continued to consolidate positions along the Line of Contact which had previously been contested by Azeri troops earlier in the week, according to the Armenian Ministry of Defense. Despite continued Azerbaijani shelling in the directions of Hardut, Martuni and Martakert, press secretary Stepanyan said that the front line had remained relatively quiet throughout the morning. However, battles of various intensity raged throughout the afternoon across the entire front. Stepanyan said that an Azerbaijani artillery strike on Shatvan village and an airstrike on Mets Masrik village in the Gegharkunik province killed one civilian resident and wounded two others. 

Devastation in a village in Hardut/Martuni (Photo: Areg Balayan and Karapet Sahakyan)

Armenian anti-aircraft defenses have been able to down two Azerbaijani combat aircraft, as well as one assault helicopter which crashed across the border into Iran. The governor of the Iranian province of Khodafarin also announced that a six-year old Iranian child received wounds when an Azerbaijani missile hit a residential building in the village of Parvizkhanlu.

Two French journalists are now in stable condition after being injured in an Azerbaijani artillery strike in the Artsakhian town of Martuni on Thursday. The journalists of the French daily Le Monde had to undergo emergency surgery. They arrived in Artsakh on Wednesday evening and were on the way to inspect damage from a previous Azerbaijani attack when they were caught under artillery fire. 

“We heard some noise, and understood that we were under attack,” said Hermine Virabyan, the team’s local fixer. She said they started running when she heard screams. “I turned around and saw Alain and Rafael covered in blood.” An Armenian journalist from the local News 24 AM was also hurt but is in recovery as well. Four civilians were reportedly killed in the indiscriminate bombing.

Several other news crews were also attacked, including a team from Agence France Press whose vehicle was damaged. Azerbaijan, which ranks 168 out of 180 countries on the 2020 World Press Freedom Index, blamed these attacks on Armenia for allegedly not taking proper precautions to ensure the journalists’ safety and reminded foreign journalists to apply for Azerbaijani press accreditation before entering the territory Baku considers to be a breakaway region. These accusations were strongly rejected by Armenian Human Rights Ombudsman Arman Tatoyan, who said it was Azerbaijan’s responsibility not to bomb civilian centers. The Ombudsman also announced that he had evidence that Azerbaijan used cluster munitions, in violation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. “We are speaking about independent foreign journalists. Their purpose is to show the real situation,” said Tatoyan. 


Raffi Elliott

Columnist & Armenia Correspondent
Raffi Elliott is a Canadian-Armenian political risk analyst and journalist based in Yerevan, Armenia. A former correspondent and columnist for the Armenian Weekly, his focus is socioeconomic, political, business and diplomatic issues in Armenia.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.