Relentless battles for Shushi continue at this hour despite inconsistent statements from various sources throughout the day.
Armenian military officials say Artsakh’s Defense Army has been maintaining a strong hold on the embattled fortress city for four days now. Armenia’s Ministry of Defense reports that two Azerbaijani soldiers were captured on Monday and that Artsakh’s Defense Army gained favorable positions overnight near Shushi and Karin Tak where Azeri forces retreated after intense combats.
A rather confounding piece of misinformation on the compromised status of Shushi came from a lesser-known source on Monday afternoon, when the spokesperson for the president of Artsakh Vahram Poghosyan issued a statement on his Facebook page which mentioned in part that “Shushi is completely out of our control.” Shortly after that, Artsakh president Arayik Harutyunyan shared his own version of the developing situation along the entire front of the Artsakh Republic, assuring Armenians that the “Defense Army and militia forces stand firm on our native soil.” “We can throw the enemy out of Artsakh, because only the strong will of our people can determine the outcome of the war,” he wrote. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who had not made a public statement in several days, stressed that the battles for Shushi are ongoing. Artsakh’s Foreign Minister Masis Mayilian also issued a statement with encouraging undertones, saying in part, “Shushi has been and will remain Armenian. It is time to make a breakthrough.”
Azerbaijan also contributed to the increasing confusion around the state of Shushi in a video produced and circulated by the Azeri government, which depicted its national flags hoisted in various parts of an empty city as well as one draped on the landmark sign of the name Shushi. Azeri soldiers were also seen stationed outside what appeared to be a government building. “I can assure you that in any war, one group can manage to penetrate and install a flag at the expense of being completely eradicated,” said Artsakh Defense Army representative Suren Sarumyan during a live press briefing. “If they are ready to be killed for the sake of flags, then we will accept that.”
Also on Monday, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry apologized for accidentally shooting down a Russian military helicopter near Armenia’s border with Nakhichevan. According to Russia’s Ministry of Defense, the helicopter was escorting a convoy of the 102nd Russian military base (stationed in Gyumri) from the Armenian village of Yeraskh when it was subjected to ground missile attacks (MANPADS) and crashed in a gorge. Russian officials say two crew members were killed, and another is being treated for moderate injuries. Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister says the helicopter was unfamiliar to Azeri forces and was flying at low altitude at night. The statement concluded with Azerbaijan’s readiness to “pay appropriate compensation.” Armenia’s Foreign Ministry, for its part, condemned the downing of the Russian Mi-24, noting in a statement that the incident took place outside the conflict zone and that Azerbaijan’s use of force against Russia “will receive an adequate response.”
Artsakh Defense Army representative Sarumyan reported that while military operations to defend Shushi continue, battles at the other military fronts of the war are also ongoing. The Azeri armed forces launched attacks in the south, southeastern, and southwestern directions of the Line of Contact, and Sarumyan reports that the Defense Army took more favorable starting lines in some parts. Armenian military officials say Azeri forces lost military equipment including one tank, four armored vehicles and eight unmanned aerial vehicles. The Defense Army released 44 names of Armenian soldiers killed in combat today, bringing the total number of military casualties to 1,218.
During the course of these military operations, Azerbaijan has continued to carry out missile strikes on the peaceful settlements of Artsakh, including Stepanakert. Artsakh Ombudsman Artak Beglaryan shared images of widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure. Casualties are unknown as of yet.
#Azerbaijan today also continued committing #WarCrimes with targeting civilian objects & population of #Artsakh/#Karabakh.
There are enormous destructions in different communities, including capital #Stepanakert.
No data on human casualties yet. pic.twitter.com/jBkb29aXMd
— Artak Beglaryan (@Artak_Beglaryan) November 9, 2020
Evidence of war crimes in Artsakh was corroborated by International Crisis Group Senior South Caucasus analyst Olesya Vartanyan, who spoke to 15 displaced persons who witnessed groups of armed Azeri forces burning homes and killing civilians. In one instance, Vartanyan says a 52 year-old disabled resident of Taghavard village was fatally shot in the head while seeking refuge in the surrounding forests.
Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev addressed war crimes in an interview with BBC that was released on Sunday. Aliyev called reports of shelling of civilian towns in Artsakh, including reports by Human Rights Watch proving the use of cluster munitions, “fake news,” decrying the “biased approach to the conflict” and “black propaganda against Azerbaijan in international media.” In response, Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Anna Naghdalyan commented on Monday that Aliyev’s denial of the truth “once again proves that under no circumstances the people of Artsakh can be put within Azerbaijan’s jurisdiction.”