Armenian military officials say an unknown number of servicemen have been killed in newly launched attacks by Azerbaijan’s Armed Forces on sovereign Armenian territory.
Armenia’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) reports that Azeri forces began shelling Armenian positions along the eastern border on Tuesday afternoon. Armenian officials say a dozen soldiers were captured by Azeri forces, but have yet to confirm the number of casualties. The MoD has only confirmed the death of one contract soldier, Meruzhan Arturi Harutyunyan (born 1991).
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said that the Azerbaijani Armed Forces had reacted to Armenian attacks on Shushi, Lachin and Kelbajar. The MoD of Azerbaijan reported that two Azerbaijani soldiers have been wounded.
Both sides reported the use of armored vehicles, artillery and mortars in the course of fighting.
While there has been no official confirmation of the exact location of the fighting, residents of Ishkhanasar, Noravan, Aghitu and Sisian in Syunik could hear the sounds of shooting, according to the Human Rights Ombudsman of Armenia.
The MoD of Armenia reported that the fighting ceased after five hours by means of Russian mediation.
The attacks follow several days of reported escalation of tensions. On November 15, PM Nikol Pashinyan confirmed that Azerbaijani troops had invaded Armenia along an undisclosed part of the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. The PM also announced on Monday that he had relieved Arshak Karapetyan from the post of Minister of Defense and replaced him with his former deputy Suren Papikyan after analyzing Azerbaijan’s incursion over the weekend.
According to a statement released by the Security Council, units of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces accompanied by armored vehicles had attacked and surrounded four combat positions of the Armenian army along the eastern border at 1:00PM local time on Sunday. Azerbaijani forces pulled back following negotiations.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan (MoFA) denied that Azerbaijani soldiers had breached the border, stating that “Azerbaijani servicemen fulfill their duties in the sovereign territories of our country.”
Secretary of the Security Council Armen Grigoryan appealed to Russia to protect its territorial integrity. “Since there’s been an attack on sovereign territory of Armenia, we are applying to Russia with a call to defend Armenia’s territorial integrity within the framework of the existing treaty between Armenia and Russia of 1997 and within the framework of the logic of implementing mutual obligations as part of the treaty,” he said on Public Television on Tuesday afternoon. He also initiated the formal process to apply for Russian assistance.
During phone calls with Papikyan and his Azerbaijani counterpart Zakir Gasanov, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu called on “both sides to stop actions provoking escalation of the situation.”
Armenian Ambassador to Moscow Vardan Toghanyan told Russian TASS news agency that “consultations are underway via military, diplomatic and other channels” between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
During an extraordinary session of the Security Council on Tuesday evening, Pashinyan called on the international community to condemn continued violations of the territorial integrity of Armenia by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, which have occupied 41 square kilometers of Armenian territory since May.
“There is no border dispute. There is an act of aggression against Armenia’s sovereign territory,” he said. “If the problem was a border dispute, Azerbaijan would have long ago accepted our offer to withdraw its soldiers from the Soviet Armenia-Azerbaijan border, deploy international observers and start border demarcation and delimitation.”
The MoFA of Armenia released a statement calling on Russia, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the OSCE Minsk Group to demand the “unconditional and complete withdrawal of the Azerbaijani armed forces from the territory of the Republic of Armenia.” The Foreign Ministry emphasized that Armenia has “all the rights to repel the use of force against its territorial integrity and sovereignty by all means,” under the UN Charter.
The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group also released a statement calling on “the sides to take concrete steps to deescalate the situation immediately.” Michel also issued a “call for urgent de-escalation and full ceasefire” on Twitter, writing that the “EU is committed to work with partners to overcome tensions for a prosperous and stable South Caucasus.”
The Committee of Freedom Fighters of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) has expressed its readiness to “stand by the Armenian soldier,” issuing a call to volunteers who fought in their battalions in the 2020 Artsakh War to prepare for mobilization at any moment.
The Armenia Alliance, a political coalition including the ARF, said that the resolution to the current crisis is the removal of the present leadership, in a statement blaming Pashinyan’s administration for bringing “casualties, territorial losses, division, chaos.”
“Nikol Pashinyan’s resignation should be followed by the consolidation of all capable forces, the formation of a new government and the provision of a policy for solving foreign and domestic problems,” the statement reads.