Armenian Forces Down More Drones, Aliyev Claims False Victory

STEPANAKERT—Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has declared victory in the second Karabakh War according to the Turkish state-owned news platform TRT World. “We have destroyed the myth of invincibility of the Armenian Army,” the President was quoted as saying. In a tweet posted at 3:54 PM local time on November 4, Aliyev added that Armenia had basically acknowledged its own military defeat “and our victory.” The TRT World “breaking news” tweet was mysteriously deleted shortly after.

The news of Artsakh’s alleged defeat came as a surprise to residents. “Right now, I’m in Stepanakert,” tweeted Anush Ghavalyan, “but there are no Azerbaijani soldiers or mercenaries around.” 

The Azeri president’s perplexing announcement came at a time when none of the Azerbaijani military’s objectives—the capture of the strategic Berdzor corridor and the historic capital of Shushi—have been achieved. Some analysts have interpreted Aliyev’s comments as an attempt at megaphone diplomacy: an attempt to signal an intent to negotiate to the Armenian side while appearing victorious to domestic audiences.

Of particular interest in the announcement was the reframing of the conditions of victory. In an October 17 address to his people, Aliyev outlined his intention not to stop until the “fascist Armenian dogs” were forced out of Artsakh “like rats.” This rhetoric provided justification for Azerbaijan’s breaking of three negotiated ceasefires in a row—which coincided with Azerbaijani military gains. 

Nevertheless, in the last two weeks, conditions on the battlefield have changed significantly. The Azerbaijani armored thrusts of the war’s early weeks, covered by sophisticated Israeli and Turkish drones, have been replaced with tough, guerrilla-style fighting in the foothills to the south of Artsakh—where Armenians, fighting out of sight of loitering drones, are in their element. New gains are few and far between. Armenian forces continue to repulse various desperate assaults on the northern and eastern frontiers. 

Additionally, Armenian forces have since adapted to Azerbaijan’s tactics and have found considerably more success in downing Azerbaijani UAVs and knocking out armored vehicles. According to battlefield footage released by the Armenian Ministry of Defense (MoD), Azerbaijani infantry assaults are increasingly being launched without armor cover, suggesting a significant loss in capability. MoD spokesman Artsrun Hovhannisyan seemingly confirmed this development on multiple occasions, announcing that Azerbaijan’s “technological edge has been virtually obliterated.” 

However, despite the significant decrease in hostilities in recent weeks, Azerbaijan has maintained pressure on the eastern towns of Martuni and Martakert. Azeri forces also launched desperate assaults both towards Berdzor and Shushi overnight with fighting reaching the valleys below the fortress town. Veteran journalist and founder of the Hetq investigative news agency Edik Baghdasaryan posted on Facebook that fighting south of the town of Karin Tak had been quite intense overnight, but that the Azeri assault had been pushed back. Armenian military officials also declared having halted two Azeri armored pushes towards Berdzor, in which several tanks and APCs were destroyed. The MoD then announced that it was engaged in operations to clean out Azeri stragglers from the Berdzor valley.

Still, the government did officially close off sections of the Goris-Berdzor-Stepanakert road to civilian traffic for the first time since the war began, suggesting that the danger of Azeri attacks remained high. These attacks, which were likely timed to coincide with the election day in the US, have been interpreted as a “Hail Mary” in a desperate attempt to achieve some objectives before returning to negotiations. 

Hovhannisyan repeated that the closing of the road to civilian traffic was a temporary precaution until the military was sure that Azeri scouts had been thoroughly rebuffed. The MoD also released footage of domestically-manufactured combat drones hitting Azerbaijani infantry south of the Berdzor valley.

Meanwhile four Azerbaijani UAVs were shot down over the eastern province of Gegharkunik on Wednesday night. The province has been the target of two drone strikes in the past month. 

According to Hovhannisyan, the Armenian military is now more combat effective than it was at the beginning of the war, having solved some logistical and operational issues which had plagued it several weeks earlier. “I am convinced we are going to win because I have seen the fire in the eyes of the 18 year-old soldiers and volunteers defending Fizuli, Hadrut and Karvajar,” said the spokesman. “With that energy, we can never lose.”

As Azerbaijan continued to shell civilian towns in Artsakh over the course of the past day, Stepanakert mayor Davit Sargsyan shared that 40-percent of his city has been destroyed by shelling. While a majority of people have fled to seek refuge, 30-percent of the town’s population remains in bunkers. Several civilians were wounded during overnight artillery attacks on Shushi, inflicting significant damage on infrastructure. Concrete numbers on casualties have yet to be reported. 

In an unprecedented example of the targeting of noncombatants, Yerevan State Medical University reports that a medic named Sasha Rustamyan was ambushed and killed by a group of Azerbaijani soldiers disguised in Armenian military uniforms. Rustamyan was transporting a wounded soldier from the frontline. The wounded soldier and driver of the ambulance are both critically injured. Since the start of the war, 46 civilians have been killed and 144 wounded by targeted Azeri attacks.

Meanwhile, Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan spoke at the 130th Session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. Wednesday marked the 70th anniversary of the signature of the European Convention on Human Rights. In his remarks, Mnatsakanyan implored the Committee to take action beyond statements that have proven ineffective in the face of Azerbaijani noncompliance and secure unhindered access to conflict zones. “I urge the Committee of Ministers to take bold steps and be worthy of the legacy of the founding fathers of the Council of Europe, the legacy of peace and prosperity, of greater unity in Europe,” he said. “The inability to express a position on an ongoing war or even acknowledging the sanitary needs of people living in conflict zones testifies to its deep crisis. The Committee must take actions, or it is doomed to be obsolete.” 


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.
Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian is a staff writer for the Armenian Weekly. Her writing has also been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Hetq and the Daily Californian. She is pursuing master’s degrees in journalism and Near Eastern Studies at New York University. A human rights journalist and feminist poet, Lillian's first poetry collection Journey to Tatev was released with Girls on Key Press in spring of 2021.
Lillian Avedian


Graduate student @GloJo_NYU and @nyukevo. Staff writer @armenianweekly. Editorial intern @DAWN_Journal.
Thank you @nyukevo! - 3 weeks ago
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    “Behind us…..gather a group of shattered states and bludgeoned races……upon whom the long night of barbarism will descend, unbroken even by a star of hope, unless we conquer, as conquer we must; as conquer we shall. May 17, 1940.

  2. All of Azerbaijan and Turkey belong to ARMENIA 🇦🇲 historical speaking Even NAGHCHEVAN belongs to ARMENIA 🇦🇲. And still these thief invader Turks won’t leave our lands and give them all back to ARMENIA the rightful owners.

    Azerbaijan and Turkey stop occupying–it all belongs to ARMENIA 🇦🇲 give it back.

  3. I don’t see a world where we advance sufficiently while people like Harout Sarkisian are commenting. I hope he isn’t real though, pretty likely an imposter. No Armenian would say “even” Nachichevan, the only reason that’s different from Artsakh was that in the 90s there wasn’t a significant Armenian majority there. And the spelling is suspicious too. Likely an imposter.

    Anyway, that aside, all of this can only come to two ends: (1) Azeris win, humanitarian catastrophe, etc. we all know that scenario, which is why we are fighting. (2) Azeris don’t win, in which case this has to extend until all the so called “occupied territories” are again controlled by Artsakh or Azerbaijan recognizes Artsakh and in return receives land back. Otherwise the implication would be that there was a military solution to the situation the whole time which is a dangerous conclusion. The question is how much the Azeris could be given in this hypothetical, since the territories next to Artsakh are, as we have seen, vital for its defense.

    Could the ultranationalist generation of Azeris that have grown up with fascist propaganda ever be trusted to keep the peace? Unlikely. If Aliev doesn’t deliver now, he’ll be ousted, likely replaced by a Turkish puppet and the post 94 years begin anew, albeit expedited – there can’t be another 25 years of quasi-ceasefire if your population genuinely hates their neighbors and wants them dead (ample evidence: from political statements to literally fascist schoolbooks to the axe murderer’s glorification to the recent comments by the FC Qarabag spokesperson to the weeklong shelling of civilian infrastructure, etc.). The problem is that a population this indoctrinated is willing to believe whatever, no matter how baseless (the “Azeri counterattack”) while it understands that it has to hide its true views from the world (i.e. its genocidal agenda for example via the popular Turkish lie that “Armenia would be better off if we had open borders with Turkey”).

    Conveniently, bribed European and other officials and those that can’t be bothered to read a book love their “both sides need to behave” messages, even when it is pretty easy to understand what is going on and cui bono.

    Meanwhile the Russian’s situation is understandable given who has come to power in Hayastan and started causing damage, though you would have hoped that learning from Georgia 2008 Putin should have realized that you shouldn’t pay too much attention to these fluctuations and try to counter them instead in time (could have saved a lot of trouble with Ukraine too). While an uneducated Russian will likely think Armenia is not worth protecting and the semi-educated Armenian will consider Russia at fault for past difficulties and catastrophes, the truth is, and we can only hope that this war helped the wider Armenian populace understand, that without serious U.S. commitment (which includes the unrealistic but ultimately inevitable scenario of dropping Turkey), there will be no way to separate the two given the current political climate.

    All very tragic but that’s life for you…

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