Armenians defending Shushi, neutralizing Azeri assaults

(Photo: MoD of the Republic of Armenia, November 6, 2020)

YEREVAN—Armenian forces in Artsakh repelled several attempted Azerbaijani armored incursions on Thursday evening and Friday, the Armenian Ministry of Defense reports. A video released on Twitter by the Armenian MoD purportedly shows a column of destroyed Azeri armored vehicles including a T-72 main battle tank, two BMP-2s and several Israeli-manufactured SandCat MRAPs surrounded by scattered bodies of Azerbaijani soldiers. The video was geo-located to the gorge south of Berdzor, which Armenian MoD spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan has nicknamed “Death Valley.” 

Several other videos depicting destroyed Azerbaijani armor and casualties near Berdzor and the eastern town of Martuni have also surfaced, purporting to show the effectiveness of a multilayered Armenian defense of key points along the Artsakh front. These videos along with other reports and media surfacing online of Azeri recon units being eliminated by sniper fire or mortar teams, as well as “hundreds” of Azeri bodies scattered around the valleys suggest that Armenian forces have engaged in a strategy of proactive defense, designed to ambush and knock out small Azeri units heading for Shushi before they can reach and establish staging areas to threaten the city. 

In his nightly press briefing, military official Artsrun Hovhannisyan announced that over the course of two days of fighting in Shushi, Azeri assaults were decisively repulsed in every direction through the coordinated use of precise artillery fire and marksmanship. Some of the local militia—raised from the surrounding areas—also employed their native knowledge of the regional topography to help hunt down Azeri stragglers. “If May 8, 1992 in Armenian history was marked as Shushi Liberation Day, then these past few days will be recorded as the days of defending Shushi,” stressed Hovhannisyan.

Hovhannisyan also said that the ongoing “sweep-up operation” had cleared the Berdzor highway of any immediate threat yesterday, but the vital highway remains temporarily closed to civilian traffic until Azeri projectiles are pushed back far enough out of range.

Despite constant shelling of both Shushi and the capital Stepanakert, as well as the threat of being cut off from supply routes to Armenia, the prospects of a successful Azeri assault on the ancient fortress city remain bleak according to military analyst Richard Giragosian. “Azerbaijan’s decision to try and seize for the symbolic city of Shushi is motivated primarily by domestic political pressure, rather than sound military logic,” the Director of the Regional Studies Center told the Armenian Weekly. He described the Azerbaijani military as being dangerously overextended, undersupplied and vulnerable to the very real threat of Armenian counterattack. Giragosian also spoke highly of the city’s defensive capabilities, commanded by Karabakh War veteran and one-time Armenian Defense Minister General Seyran Ohanyan. 

Armenia’s ability to respond has already been demonstrated with limited counter-attacks retaking commanding positions in the Zangelan area as well as the 8,130 foot high Mount Dizapayt, seven miles west of Hadrut, thus threatening Azerbaijani supply lines. Armenian military officials also say the Defense Army shot down yet another Azeri UAV late Friday morning.

Overnight in Stepanakert, Armenian officials say rocket attacks destroyed a home, killing three residents—an elderly woman and her two grandchildren—adding to the increasing death toll among the peaceful civilian population. “The international community turns a blind eye to the situation here, to the humanitarian catastrophe in Artsakh and to the war crimes perpetrated by Azerbaijan, by Turkey and by terrorists,” said Artsakh Ombudsman Artak Beglaryan in a video message among the mounds of rubble on Friday. Beglaryan says over 50 people have died so far and more than 150 people have been wounded. The office of the Artsakh Ombudsman also reported that Azerbaijan shelled the archaeological camp in Tigranakert—another example of its deliberate strikes on culturally significant locations.

Meanwhile Anna Hakobyan, wife of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, announced that her squadron of volunteer women fighters has completed 10 days of training and is ready to be deployed. The squadron is named Erato after the Armenian queen of the Artaxiad Dynasty.

(Photo: Anna Hakobyan/Facebook, November 6, 2020)
Raffi Elliott

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.


  1. The contrast in these pictures could not be more telling . Destroyed military equipment and soldiers of the Azeri invaders. These are
    defensive moves to repel an offensive move. The Azeri destruction of civilian targets as shown reveals their murderous intentions to kill as many Armenians as possible …. civilian, children, elderly etc.
    War is terrible and cruel but this on going conflict the last thirty years has revealed an adversary that has no regard for generally accepted rules of engagement, no respect for international law, violates every agreement they sign and has vile racism as its core motivation.

  2. It certainly raises the question that if the Azeri government wanting or wishing to bring their settlers into these lands since they are saying that these are their lands, my question is, why would you destroy all these cities, villages and the properties in them? This means that they are simply creating destruction to make life difficult for the Armenians. They are destroying the lives of the population. If I can’t have it, we don’t want you to have it too. Absolutely disgusting.

    • That’s a good point. If they were planning to settle there this wouldn’t be the right approach. Therefore, they are not planning to do that.

  3. What will we do if the azeris/turks send airborne paratroopers units on Sushi or elsewhere? Are we ready to repel them?

    • If they can repel drones, I am sure they can repel paratroopers.
      Let them do their job. They know the territory better than any of us. Let us trust our military leaders and commanders, and not question their judgements.

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