Armenian soldier killed by Azerbaijani forces

Junior Sergeant Gevorg Khurshudyan (1989 – 2021)

The first fatality was recorded this week along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border since the invasion of Azeri forces two weeks ago, at least 500 of whom remain stationed within the international borders of Armenia.  

On May 25, the Armenian Ministry of Defense confirmed that Junior Sergeant Gevorg Khurshudyan (born 1989) died of a gunshot wound during a shootout triggered by Azerbaijani gunfire in the Verin Shorzha village of the Gegharkunik province. 

Khurshudyan was the son of Yura Khurshudyan, a veteran member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) “Smbat Tatosyan” chapter of the Ararat district. He leaves behind two children. 

“The ARF Supreme Council of Armenia expresses its condolences to Gevorg’s family, loved ones and fellow servicemen and to the Armenian community for this painful loss,” wrote the ARF Supreme Council in a statement. 

The Azerbaijani MoD denied the shelling of Armenian positions in the territory of Verin Shorzha village as “false information.” “According to the information we possess, the incident involving the death of an Armenian serviceman occurred as a result of an accident,” the MoD wrote. “This incident has nothing to do with the Azerbaijani side.” 

The MoD of Azerbaijan further claimed on Wednesday that Armenian forces fired on Azerbaijani combat positions in Kelbajar, Gadabay and Shushi between May 24 and May 26. The Armenian MoD dismissed these accusations as a “miserable attempt” to hide the fact of Khurshudyan’s murder. The Russian peacekeeping contingent in Artsakh confirmed that no shots have been fired in the direction of Shushi this week. 

Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers have clashed in other border areas since Azerbaijani soldiers advanced into the Syunik and Gegharkunik provinces on May 12. On May 20, the Armenian MoD published a statement urging citizens, officials and media to refrain from traveling to the eastern border after 11 Armenian soldiers were injured during a skirmish in the Khoznavar village. Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor confirmed that earlier that day a group of Azerbaijani soldiers had crossed the state border into the same area and threatened to open fire, claiming that the territory belonged to Azerbaijan. 

While part of the personnel of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces returned to their starting positions on May 22, the Armenian government reports that between 500 to 600 Azerbaijani soldiers remain in Syunik and Gegharkunik. Acting PM Nikol Pashinyan, who has been negotiating for a peaceful withdrawal, has faced widespread criticism for concealing the details of the negotiation process from the public. 

On May 19, Mikayel Minasyan, the son-in-law of Serge Sargsyan and former ambassador to Vatican City, publicized a copy of the first page of a draft statement by Pashinyan and Presidents Ilham Aliyev and Vladimir Putin on his Telegram Channel. The document calls for the creation of a joint commission for the demarcation and delimitation of the Armenia-Azerbaijan international border. While most of the document was redacted, Minasyan claimed on his Facebook page that the demarcation process will be conducted on the basis of Soviet maps, geographic considerations and the situation at the time of negotiations. 

Pashinyan confirmed the authenticity of the document during a cabinet meeting on May 20, which he claims is “100 percent in the best interest” of Armenia. He insists that he will sign the agreement provided that Azerbaijan withdraw its troops from Armenian territory and return all Armenian prisoners of war held in captivity over six months after the end of the 2020 Artsakh War. 

According to Minasyan, the secret working agreement also stipulates the concession of five villages in the Tavush province and one village in the Ararat province. These territories represent the Azerbaijani enclaves Voskepar, Barkhudarly and Karki/Tigranashen that have been under de facto Armenian control since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Armenian enclave Artsvashen also remains under Azerbaijani jurisdiction. 

Versions of the November 9 trilateral ceasefire agreement leaked hours before its release included a reference to the return of “territories held by Armenia in the Gazakh region of Azerbaijan” that was excluded from the official document. The Gazakh region includes the Voskepar and Barkhudarly enclaves in the northeastern border section of Armenia. 

During an extraordinary sitting of the National Assembly convened by the Bright Armenia Party on May 20, Pashinyan suggested that the problem of the enclaves might be addressed during the delimitation and demarcation process. Head of the Security Council Armen Grigoryan indicated during a televised interview that the demarcation process might entail a return to Soviet era borders, placing Artsvashen under Armenian control and Voskepar, Barkhudarly and Karki/Tigranashen under Azerbaijani control. 

Map of Armenian and Azerbaijani enclaves (Photo Karen Harutyunyan)

CivilNet editor Karen Harutyunyan criticized the absence of a principled approach at the start of the negotiation process. “While Artsvashen has no strategic significance for Armenia and Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijani enclaves of Voskepar and Karki currently inside Armenia are of strategic economic importance—Armenia’s roads to Georgia and Iran pass through them,” he said. “Nonetheless, Azerbaijan might demand the return of these enclaves to place additional diplomatic and economic pressure on Armenia.”

The Office of the President and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that they had no previous knowledge of the working agreement. Governmental and civil society actors have called on Pashinyan to make public the full contents of the draft document, warning that the secrecy surrounding the negotiation process facilitates the dissemination of disinformation and fake news.

The absence of official communication regarding the situation on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border in the postwar period has already deepened “a lack of confidence in state institutions and the ruling political party,” reads a statement published by 19 NGOs. 

“Under these circumstances, Acting PM Nikol Pashinyan does not have the legitimacy to conduct negotiations with foreign entities without political consultations,” the statement continues. “Any government or political party must not bypass the people and accept momentous and irreversible decisions based on narrow personal or group interests.” 

“Border demarcation itself is a guarantee of human rights, the wrong implementation of which can lead to new human rights violations and tension,” wrote Armenia’s Ombudsman Arman Tatoyan. 

In a resolution demanding the immediate and unconditional release of the estimated 200 Armenian prisoners of war held in Azerbaijan, the European Parliament condemned the “violation of territorial integrity of Armenia and of international law” committed by Azerbaijan’s latest incursion. “This violation of Armenian sovereign territory follows worrying statements by Azerbaijani representatives, including the president, which appeared to raise territorial claims and threaten the use of force and thereby undermine the efforts towards security and stability in the region,” the resolution reads

The United States, France, Iran and other countries have formally called on Azerbaijan to withdraw all forces from Armenian territory. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Yerevan and Baku this week in order to “help resolve the current situation.” “We have repeatedly warned that there needs to be restraint and respect for the sovereignty of [regional] countries,” he said during his meeting with his Armenian counterpart Ara Ayvazyan. “We have emphasized and continue to emphasize that internationally recognized borders and territorial integrity is our red line.” 

While Armenia has asked Russia and the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) for military assistance, Russia has not formally demanded the retreat of Azerbaijani soldiers, and the CSTO has not formulated a position regarding the border dispute. 

“The speed of the CSTO’s actions does not satisfy us,” Pashinyan said during a parliament session on Wednesday. He nonetheless insisted that Putin has repeatedly assured him that “Armenia’s borders are a red line for Russia.” 

“The unfortunate fact is that Azerbaijan has crossed that red line, and I think it is impossible that Russia will not fulfill its contractual obligations,” he said

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 holds bachelor’s degrees in Peace and Conflict Studies and Armenian Language and Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. She is a human rights journalist and feminist poet. Her first poetry collection, Journey to Tatev, will be published with Girls on Key Press in spring of 2021.

13 Comments

  1. Wait. Don’t blame any inaction on Pashinyan.

    Whenever an Armenian soldier as been murdered in the PAST 30 YEARS, the self-serving person in power at any time in that time period (pick any of the 4) has done NOTHING. Pashinyan will simply continue the idiotic weakling policy of his predecessors of whimpering while hiding under their wives’ skirts, because that’s all they can do as wimps, inept politicians and THIEVES.

    Besides, if there were consequences for Azerbaijan engaging in this kind of behavior from Armenia, it would mean that Armenia was a real country. And Armenia is not a real country. I used to think Azerbaijan was a fake country and needs to be put out of its misery. I still think that but now it is evident that Armenia isn’t a real country either. No real country on this planet would have the policies that Armenia has, not even banana republics.

    Armenia’s policy is simply, why have any proper reaction to the actions of a terrorist neighbor and bring attention to yourself when you are looting the county? It’s simply not profitable for all these lowest-of-the-world tier politicians of Armenia looting the country for 30 years straight.

  2. As long as Armenia does not respond,its soldiers will be killed (armenian soldiers)

  3. I thought Russia had security contracts with Armenia? No? More proof for the Russian bots how much that POS nation cant be trusted as a reliable partner. All Russian actions are purely self serving. RUSSIA ENJOYS AND BENEFITS FROM A WEAK AND SUBSERVIENT ARMENIA. Also the sooner Pashinyan is removed the better. He has proven to be the most incompetent and useless implant ever. He’s a detriment to all Armenians and some would say traitor. Last, regardless of what any foreign entity says, including the EU-Russia, France or Iran, NOT ONE will directly help Armenia in military dealings against both Turkey and Azerbaijan. Those Azeri troops inside Armenia need to be destroyed. Because they will not stop. They will not leave. No negotiation will resolve this. Prolonging their stay is only a sign of PURE weakness. A reflection of Armenia’s current political and military leadership. THEY ALL NEED TO BE RID.

  4. Some of us knew that the pursuit of Western fairytales like “democracy” would prove toxic for Armenia. Armenia is too small, too remote, too poor, too landlocked, and Armenians are too shortsighted, too disorganized, too materialistic, too tribal and too political illiterate. Armenia/Armenians will NOT survive long in a dangerous and unforgiving place like the south Caucasus without direct and full Russian support.

    In a nutshell: The fundamental problem we had during the past few years (starting with Serj Sargsyan’s administration, but rapidly accelerating after Nikol’s rise to power) is this: Armenia moved too far away from the Russian Bear. A country that was, is and will continue being almost totally dependent on Russia for survival thought it could ignore persistent Russian complaints and simply hop into bed Western powers, essentially for financial aid (i.e. institutionalized bribes). After coming to power, Nikol he did everything he could to anger and alienate the Kremlin. Example: Many in his administration, including himself, were professional Russophobes before they rose to power in 2018. Consequently, the country got flooded with Western and Turkish agents and activists. Naturally, Moscow, who had held the keys to Artsakh for the past 26 years, was displeased. End result: A historic defeat for Armenia, and a well deserved one in my opinion.

    Naturally, Moscow did not allow a crisis to go to waste.

    Armenia is now more dependent on Russia than ever before. Moreover, with Russian military bases now in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Armenia, Artsakh and Azerbaijan, Russia’s position in the south Caucasus has not been this strong since the collapse of the Soviet Union. So, disregard all the nonsense about Russia losing the south Caucasus. Disregard nonsense about Russians allowing Turks into the region as well. Turks have been freely operating in the region since 1991.

    Anyway, solution for today’s problem in Armenia is this: Disregard the whims of the ignorant masses, who should have never been allowed a say in politics to begin with; get rid of today’s CIA and Soros financed government in Armenia; put back into power someone like Robert Kocharyan and/or Karen Karapetyan who have close ties in Moscow. Then sit back and watch Putin and company take care of matters in a heartbeat…

    • You are 100% spot on. It’s not what Pashinyan says, it’s what he does. He installed Soros puppets everywhere he could. He wanted to loose Artsakh, as him and his father Levon-Ter have hated and wanted to get rid of Artsakh for years. I only wish there Armenians wake up.

  5. The problem we have on the country’s eastern borders is the demarcation process of Armenia’s internationally recognized borders with Azerbaijan. Because of the 30 year old conflict between Yerevan and Baku, Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan was never fully determined or made official. There were areas along the border where Azeris had advanced into Armenia and stayed, and there were areas where Armenians had advanced into Azerbaijan and stayed. This 30 year old mess needs to be sorted out now that the much awaited war has come to pass. Moscow is trying to oversee the difficult process. Knowing that Armenia is populated by self-destructive and politically-illiterate people, Baku is naturally trying to take advantage of the situation on various sectors along the border, especially since Nikol’s government hadn’t even thought about placing military units in those locations. Armenia however is NOT under a threat of an invasion by Baku. That is not going to happen. I reiterate: It’s part of the demarcation process. This is why Russia/CSTO is somewhat silent. Baku will not invade Armenia not because it does not want to or because it fears Armenia’s “mighty” military or its “almighty” Diaspora but because of Russia.

    As it has been for the pat 200 years, Russians are the only reason why Armenia still exists today. In any case, the demarcation process of the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan will be a lengthy and potentially dangerous. And this is why we today need professional politicians with very close ties to Moscow more than ever before. This is why we need someone like Robert Kocharyan to return to power and put an end to this nightmare. Let’s therefore see what our peasantry “decides” on June 20th…

    • How has the Russian security guarantees been working out? Useless nation sat back and allowed Turks direct involvement in murdering and stealing Armenians claiming its only about securing Armenia proper. Now Azeris are encroaching Armenia proper and it says NOTHING. Russia was the only reason Nakichivan and Karabakh was given away in the first place. Never a mention of that? Russia was the only reason that there was pogroms allowed in Baku and Sumgate while its militarily sat and watched Armenians being burned, raped and tossed out windows.. Russia can care less about you or any Armenians that is for sure regardless of what “soros” implant is ruling. It cares about itself ONLY. The real answer is unification: one Armenia Artsakh and diaspora. Trusting A third party like Russia to save us is as stupid as anything..Russia should only be used as a tool all the while working towards Armenian unification. Nothing has or will work.

  6. Joe, your agenda is not working. Reread my recent comments on several of the recent Artsakh related articles appearing on this site. They answer ALL your questions. As to Russia, it has performed it duties vis-a-vis Armenia flawlessly. That is why we still have an Armenia. Russia was never obligated to help us in Artsakh. Artsakh was our fight. We knew that, and we screwed it up. And allow me to also tell you that Russia is more powerful in the south Caucasus today than at any time since 1991, and Armenia today is more dependent on Russia than at any time since 1991. Thank God. Gradually Armenia will form a union with the Russian Federation and the nightmare of the past 30 years will be over. Viva Pax Russica!

    • Oh look, Joe’s “agenda” is not working… and what “agenda” is that, Vlad? Call for a unified, strong Armenia. That, according to you is an “agenda”. Got it. But thank you for revealing what exactly you are Mr “concerned for Russia”. Chanting “Viva Pax Russica” definitely has no AGENDA behind it, especially on a page where a soldier lost his life as a result of the condescending actions of your nation, Turkophile Russia.

      The existence of people like you is good enough reason for all of us Armenians to definitely get on that “agenda” you speak of, or should I say fear, to kick the Turk-loving, ungrateful and arrogant Russians out of Armenia for good.

      And now let me give you my message: VIVA PAX AMERICANA!!!!

      I dream of the day USA/NATO destroys Russia. The USA destroyed the Soviet Union, Russia will be much easier when the time comes. And I as an American of Armenian descent will cheer and celebrate that day of redemption.

    • My Agenda is the need for One Armenia Artsakh and Diaspora united as one. Reread my posts. Your agenda of Armenia being a subservient Russian tool is the one clearly NOT working. Let me repeat so maybe you understand: Russia can care less about Armenia. While Azerbaijan currently is inside Armenia setting up military bases Russia is fulfilling its duty “flawlessly” by doing and say nothing. Your clueless.

  7. Joe, it does no good trying to talk sense into these pre-programmed apparatchik robots who are set on a loop chant on the “greatness” of Turkophile Russia. Whenever one asks them to address some historical facts, they default and reboot to the beginning of their chant.

    “Mother Russia revived Armenia 200 years ago!!!” – LOL

    These people are actually a lot more brainwashed than Azeri “historians”.

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