Artsakh officials have entreated the international community to recognize war crimes committed by the Azerbaijani military against civilian populations in Artsakh as a full week since Azerbaijani forces launched a deadly, large-scale attack along the entire Line of Contact and beyond draws to a close.
The Azerbaijani military continues to bombard civilian settlements in Artsakh, resulting in casualties and destruction of infrastructure. For the past three days Artsakh’s capital city of Stepanakert has been under heavy fire. On Saturday morning the Azerbaijani army targeted civilian objects and populations in Stepanakert using Polonez and Smerch multiple rocket launcher systems. Later on Saturday evening the city of Shushi was also fired upon. According to the Artsakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there are casualties in both cities as a result of the shelling. The number of casualties is yet unknown.
— Armenian Unified Infocenter (@ArmenianUnified) October 4, 2020
Artsakh’s Human Rights Ombudsman Artak Beglaryan implored the international community to pay attention to the war crimes perpetrated by the Azerbaijani armed forces against peaceful civilian settlements in the past week in a video address. “We have now humanitarian disaster in Artsakh, and my call upon the international community is to react properly, to stop talking, and start acting. Don’t be blind.”
Following the morning attack upon Stepanakert, Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan shared on his Facebook, “From now on, military facilities permanently located in major cities of Azerbaijan became the targets of the Defense Army. I call on the people of Azerbaijan to leave these cities as soon as possible to avoid possible casualties.” Soon after, the Artsakh Defense Army fired rockets upon the city of Ganja in Azerbaijan with the purpose of neutralizing its military air base, which has been used by the Azerbaijani military since the first day of fighting. According to Artsakh officials, the military air base was destroyed.
The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry claimed that one civilian was killed and four wounded as a result of the attack. The Armenian Ministry of Defense refuted allegations that any fire was directed toward Azerbaijan from within the territory of Armenia. Several hours after the offensive upon the military airport, President Harutyunyan issued a statement calling for a ceasefire in order to avoid civilian casualties. During a Saturday evening press briefing, Armenian Ministry of Defense Representative Artsrun Hovhannisyan stated that, while the government of Azerbaijan must have been aware that the Defense Army would eventually target key military facilities in their country, they took zero actions to guarantee the defense and protection of the civilians of Ganja. “We have seen how Aliyev does not care about his own citizens,” he said.
In the afternoon, President Harutyunyan addressed the nation in a video broadcast in which he asserted that the attack upon Ganja was necessary retaliation for the Azerbaijani government’s actions throughout the week. “I regret that we hit our adversary’s permanent military locations in our historical Gandzak, Ganja, Kirovabad. We struck them because they forced us,” he stated. “You started this war, and you broke humanitarian laws targeting civilian populations. You have time, think. We will continue, until the end, until the last person, until the last soldier—we are ready to die. It’s not possible to win in that situation.”
President Harutyunyan also addressed the Diaspora during his speech, calling for unity in what he terms a holy patriotic war. “I want all of us to fight against Azerbaijan but not Azerbaijanis,” he stated. “I want Armenians to understand that the Azerbaijani people are captives of a dictatorial regime and Turkey, and they struggle because of fake geopolitical motives and a thirst for power of those authorities.”
Meanwhile, fighting continues in the Northern and Southern directions along the Artsakh-Azerbaijan Line of Contact. Hovhannisyan announced that while the intensity of the fighting is abated in comparison to the previous two days, the Defense Army continues to push back attacks by Azerbaijani forces. He declared that the Armenian Armed Forces have destroyed 13 armored vehicles, three airplanes and one unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in the past day. According to the latest data released by the Armenian government, Azerbaijani military losses throughout the week include 124 UAVs, 14 helicopters, 17 airplanes, 368 armored vehicles and four Smerch multiple rocket launchers. Armenian officials say there has been a total of 3,154 casualties among Azerbaijani personnel since the beginning of fighting.
Hovhannisyan proclaimed that ongoing military operations are accompanied by the dissemination of misinformation by the Azerbaijani military-political leadership. Azerbaijan’s leadership stated that their military captured the towns of Mataghis and Jabrayil, claims that are falsified by video footage according to Hovhannisyan. The Armenian Ministry of Defense also denies allegations of attacks launched from within the territory of Armenia against Mingechaur, Khizi and Apsheron as provocative falsehoods.
In a nationwide address on Saturday, President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan set forth a list of conditions directed to the government of Armenia that must be fulfilled prior to a cessation of its military operations in Artsakh. He demanded that the government of Armenia provide a specific timeline for the withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from Artsakh as a necessary precondition to a ceasefire. He also declared that an end to the fighting must be preceded by a formal apology from Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to the Azerbaijani people for stating that Karabakh is Armenia.
The Government of Armenia submitted a second request to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) this week. The application asks the ECHR to apply interim measures against Turkey in response to its diverse assistance to Azerbaijan in attacks against civilian populations in violation of international humanitarian law and the European Convention on Human Rights.