After yet another night of heavy shelling on the civilian populations of Artsakh, the Republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to a humanitarian ceasefire once again—the second declaration of its kind in one week. The humanitarian ceasefire, prompted this time by mediation over the last several days by the co-chair countries of the OSCE Minsk Group, is supposed to commence at midnight local time on October 18, according to an announcement from Armenia’s Foreign Ministry. “This ceasefire must be unconditional and strictly observed by both parties,” read a statement from the office of French President Emmanuel Macron. “France will be very attentive to this and will remain engaged so that hostilities cease on a permanent basis and that credible discussions can quickly begin,” it continued. Artsakh’s Foreign Ministry pledged its loyalty to the ceasefire in a statement that read in part, “The Republic of Artsakh confirms readiness to observe the humanitarian truce on a reciprocal basis.”
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov brokered a similar deal back on October 10 after an all-day meeting with his Azeri and Armenian counterparts. But that agreement, the terms of which were designed for both sides to exchange prisoners of war and collect casualties under the supervision of the International Red Cross Committee, quickly fell apart as Azeri forces continued their attacks, essentially razing Stepanakert to the ground and even targeting the international borders of Armenia proper.
Ahead of this unexpected announcement, Armenia’s Armed Forces had to contend with a full-scale Azeri offensive on Friday night into Saturday. The Armenian air force located and shot down three Azerbaijani unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) flying through Armenian air space on Saturday afternoon, following two Azerbaijani UAVs that were neutralized early Saturday morning. The Artsakh Defense Army continued to push back military offensives launched along the Line of Contact throughout the day. According to Ministry of Defense (MoD) representative Artsrun Hovhannisyan, the Azerbaijani military does not use many armored vehicles anymore, relying on air attack capabilities including UAVs and artillery fire. The Armenian armed forces have destroyed 556 Azerbaijani armored vehicles since September 27.
— MFA of Artsakh (@mfankr) October 17, 2020
The eastern province of Gegharkunik in the Republic of Armenia has twice been the target of Azerbaijani drone strikes in the past three weeks. According to the governor of Gegharkunik Gnel Sanosyan, one civilian has been killed and three injured as a result of these attacks. Moreover, over 40 homes, two schools and a natural gas pipeline have been damaged. To date, 18 drones have been shot down in Gegharkunik near the towns of Vardenis, Martuni and Gavar.
Also on Saturday, Ombudsman Artak Beglaryan presented a comprehensive report on the condition of the Republic of Artsakh. As of October 16, Mr. Beglaryan said 36 civilians have died and 115 people have been injured since Azerbaijan’s deliberate strikes using banned weapons began on September 27. Twenty of those casualties were killed in their own homes, and eight were killed since the initial establishment of the ceasefire. In addition, more than a thousand schools, hospitals and cultural and religious centers, as well as 7,800 homes and businesses have been damaged. Beglaryan also expressed his disappointment in the international community’s lackluster response to the publicized execution of two Armenian POWs, which he said was verified and fact-checked by the investigative journalism website Bellingcat. “We demand more clear responses. They have to qualify this kind of crime,” urged Beglaryan, while underscoring the importance once again of the international community’s recognition of the independence of the Republic of Artsakh as a preventative measure.