An Armenian civilian was injured in renewed crossfire along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border on Monday evening.
According to the Ministry of Defense (MoD) of Armenia, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces commenced firing at Armenian positions in the vicinity of the Yeraskh village near the Armenian border with the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic at 6:40PM local time on July 19 using firearms of different calibers and mortars. The head of the Yeraskh village Radik Oghikyan received a gunshot wound while attempting to extinguish a fire instigated by the shooting, which lasted until 2:00AM.
“The Armenian Armed Forces announce that it will not permit any change in the line of contact,” the MoD wrote.
The MoD of Azerbaijan similarly accused the Armenian Armed Forces of firing at Azerbaijani positions near the Heydarabad settlement in the Sadarak region of Nakhichevan. First lieutenant Badalli Ramal Bahlul was wounded in the crossfire, the MoD reports.
The situation near Yeraskh has been tense since July 14, when the MoD reported that Armenian soldier Samvel Gagik Alaverdyan was killed in a shootout initiated by the Azerbaijani military. An Azerbaijani soldier was also reportedly wounded in the crossfire. Two Armenian soldiers have been killed since the Azerbaijani Armed Forces invaded the Armenian border provinces of Syunik and Gegharkunik on May 12, with no reported change in their positions.
On July 14, the Armenian military also reported that it lost contact with soldier Artur Nalbandyan and driver Aramais Torozyan near Lake Sev, along the border between Azerbaijan and the Syunik province. According to Sputnik Armenia, the two soldiers have since been discovered on the Azerbaijani side. The Armenian MoD told Sputnik that it had not received such information and that search and rescue operations continue.
The violence has been accompanied by an escalation in rhetoric from top leadership and threats of a renewed war. During a joint press conference following a meeting with European Council President Charles Michel on July 17, Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan told reporters that Azerbaijan “intends to provoke new military clashes in Artsakh” and “on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border” as evidenced by recent border clashes and according to information “available from unofficial sources.”
On July 19 Azerbaijani Minister of Defense Colonel General Zakir Hasanov echoed President Ilham Aliyev’s statement that they are “ready and must be ready for war at any moment.” The Minister “noted that Armenia bears responsibility for the escalation of tension” and “gave instructions to the command staff in regard with the suppression of possible provocations of the Armenian armed forces.”
The US Embassy in Armenia has expressed its concern regarding recent violence along the border, calling on “both sides to swiftly and peacefully de-escalate tensions” and “return as soon as possible to substantive negotiations.”
Meanwhile, in the domestic sphere, the Armenia Alliance and the “Pativ Unem” alliance have announced that they will take up their mandates in the National Assembly after the Constitutional Court decided on July 17 to uphold the results of the June 20 extraordinary parliamentary elections.
Former president and head of the Armenia Alliance Robert Kocharyan has renounced his mandate, maintaining that “by virtue” he has “always been a person of executive power.” “With this step I express my agreement with my thousands of teammates who have conveyed to me their opinion that I should not be tempted by the mandate of a parliamentary deputy after the posts of the president of the republics of Armenia and Artsakh,” he wrote. “Finally, I was voted for as the candidate for prime minister.”
Several opposition parties appealed to the Constitutional Court to redistribute the mandates or order a second round of voting between the Civil Contract Party and the Armenia Alliance following the declared victory of the former.
International and domestic election observers concurred that the election was competitive and the results trustworthy. Nonetheless the Armenia Alliance, the I Have Honor Alliance, the Awakening National Christian Party and the Armenians’ Homeland Party submitted appeals regarding the exploitation of administrative resources by the ruling party, the directed vote of members of the military and Pashinyan’s use of hate speech and calls for violence throughout the campaign period.
The contentious hearings, which lasted from July 9-14, were marked by accusations of partiality on behalf of various judges. At the start of the hearings, Zartonk party representative Ara Zohrabyan and Armenia Alliance representative Aram Vardevanyan submitted petitions requesting the recusal of Judge Vahe Grigoryan, who has represented Pashinyan in the European Court of Human Rights. Grigoryan has also represented relatives of the victims of the March 2008 state crackdown of post-election protests. The Constitutional Court rejected these petitions.
On July 9 Arman Babajanyan, who participated in the election as one of the leaders of the Shirinian-Babajanyan Democrats’ Alliance, organized a protest to insist that the judges refrain from siding with Kocharyan. In March of 2021, the Constitutional Court dismissed Kocharyan’s case after he was charged with “overthrowing the constitutional order” due to his involvement with the March 2008 crackdown.
The Armenia Alliance has also accused the authorities of political repression of the new parliamentary opposition following a series of arrests of members of its constituent “Resurgent Armenia” party on charges of corruption and vote-buying in the aftermath of the election. According to the “Akanates” observation mission, the most common election violations, including attempts to control or influence voters, were committed by the Armenia Alliance.
In the latest round of arrests, Goris mayor Arush Arushanyan was charged with voter bribery on July 15 and Sisian mayor Artur Sargsyan was charged with abuse of power and forgery of official documents on July 16. According to the Special Investigative Service, Arushanyan, who was listed as the 32nd candidate on the Armenia Alliance electoral list, ordered Karahunj official Lusine Avetian to provide financial assistance to residents in exchange for votes for the Armenia Alliance. On April 28 Avetian, at the behest of Arushanyan, met with several locals and provided them each with 100,000-220,000 drams. Avetian was previously detained during a wave of arrests of Syunik politicians between July 7-8.
“They are monkeys,” Arushanyan told reporters, ridiculing the charges. “What else can you expect from monkeys?”
During the campaign period, PM Pashinyan repeatedly vowed to use his “steel mandate” to execute staff purges against opponents of the 2018 Velvet Revolution and wage “political vendettas” against heads of local communities whom he claimed forced their subordinates to support his political adversaries.