Azerbaijan failed to hold its end of the bargain with Armenia on Saturday, severely violating a Russian-brokered humanitarian ceasefire by firing on civilian settlements in the Republic of Artsakh throughout the day and staging provocations along the Line of Contact.
Moments after the ceasefire agreement was announced by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow overnight, Azerbaijan increased its use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the southern direction of the Line of Contact (LoC). Hostilities persisted along the LoC until noon—the agreed-upon time of the ceasefire. Armenia’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) representative Artsrun Hovhannisyan said the Azerbaijani military suffered 200 casualties and the loss of three UAVs, four armored vehicles and other small units. Armenia’s military casualties, officials say, have surpassed 400.
Later, Armenian officials reported that Azerbaijan began conducting drone strikes on the territory of Armenia proper, violating Armenian airspace. The strikes were directed toward the communities of Artsvanik and Yeritsvank near the town of Kapan in the province of Syunik; these attacks lasted from 9:30AM until 11:00AM. Armenian officials say one civilian was killed and three wounded. No military operations took place in the Syunik province after the commencement of the ceasefire at noon.
Stepanakert was also a target during what was meant to prepare both sides for a ceasefire as missiles were launched at the capital, as well as the surrounding towns of Shushi and Martuni. Those attacks continue tonight. “Baku uses the same style of war crimes by the very last moment,” Artsakh Ombudsman Artak Beglaryan tweeted.
In the recent hours #Azerbaijan started striking not only #Stepanakert, but also #Martuni, #Shushi & other towns/villages of #Artsakh/#Karabakh.
In Stepanakert a house was burnt, there’re other damages, too, we’re checking.
So, the ceasefire isn’t maintained by Azerbaijan, why???
— Artak Beglaryan (@Artak_Beglaryan) October 10, 2020
At 12:00PM, the Artsakh Defense Army, in accordance with the truce, was ordered to cease fire so that they could carry out the humanitarian purpose of exchanging prisoners of war and collecting casualties. The Azerbaijani forces, however, ignored the ceasefire, and at 12:05PM, launched an assault on a settlement known as Karakhambeyli. Artaskh’s Defense Army attempted to collect the bodies of its casualties but was impeded by further provocations staged by the Azerbaijani military along the LoC. In his evening press briefing, Hovhannisyan asserted that the exchange of bodies will only take place in the presence of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) moving forward in order to guarantee compliance with the ceasefire agreement.
The morning of the ceasefire, small groups from the Azerbaijani military’s diversionary positions attempted to infiltrate the town of Hadrut in Artsakh. Operations to stop the incursion and halt the shelling of Hadrut continued for several hours after the start of the ceasefire. On Friday, President Ilham Aliyev declared that Hadrut had been captured by Azerbaijan, but according to the MoD, this invasion was staged one day later to validate Aliyev’s false claim. Two civilians were killed in their home during the attack, one mother and her son, who is said to have been disabled. The diversionary positions were eventually neutralized by the Defense Army.
Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan visited Hadrut on Saturday and confirmed that the town was under the supervision of the Defense Army. “The fighting spirit of our boys is strong,” he said.
In a statement condemning Azerbaijan’s “perfidious violation” of the humanitarian ceasefire agreement, Artsakh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also underscored the importance of recognizing the independence of the Republic. “Azerbaijan’s actions have once again demonstrated that it is a rogue state, which is not willing to fulfill its obligations even for minutes,” the statement read. “The recognition of the independence of the Republic of Artsakh remains the only way for the international community to stop the rogue state.”
Ceasefire announced in joint statement of 9 October in #Moscow must be respected and implemented. #Azerbaijan continued attacking #NagornoKarabakh after 12pm today, violating their commitment. #Stepanakert is bombed right now. This is heinous aggression
— Zohrab Mnatsakanyan (@ZMnatsakanyan) October 10, 2020
Turkey, for its part, upheld that a humanitarian ceasefire cannot replace a “lasting solution” for Azerbaijan to “reclaim its territories under occupation.” “Turkey will continue to stand by brotherly Azerbaijan on the ground and at the table,” read the statement from its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which also echoed President Aliyev’s statements ahead of the Moscow truce talks that this ceasefire was Armenia’s opportunity to “withdraw from the territories it has occupied.”
It has been widely reported and asserted by world powers including France that Turkey has been employing Syrian mercenaries to fight alongside Azeri forces against Artsakh’s Defense Army. On Saturday, the Armenian Unified Infocenter published two videos—both graphic in nature—providing evidence of this claim. The first shows an Arabic-speaking individual walking around a battlefield filming the bodies of deceased Armenian soldiers. The second shows a group of Arabic-speaking individuals firing ammunition in Artsakh.
— Armenian Unified Infocenter (@ArmenianUnified) October 10, 2020
The ICRC issued a statement on Saturday welcoming the agreement on the humanitarian ceasefire and affirming its role as a neutral intermediary to facilitate the exchange of the remains of those killed in action and of released detainees under the dictates of international humanitarian law.