Azerbaijan’s military shelled various villages, mostly located along the eastern border of Artsakh, on Wednesday, according to Artsakh authorities.
The Office of the Prosecutor General of Artsakh reported that the Azerbaijani Armed Forces fired on the villages of Khramort and Nakhichanik of the Askeran region and the villages of Khnushinak and Karmir Shuka of the Martuni region in Artsakh.
The shelling follows several days of escalated tensions in Artsakh, as well as along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border.
Armenian soldier Hrach Arami Manasaryan died from a gunshot wound on March 7 after the Azerbaijani Armed Forces opened fire on Armenian military posts along the western part of the Armenia-Azerbaijan border at midday. The Ministry of Defense (MoD) of Armenia said that one other soldier was wounded in the attack. The MoD of Armenia had denied an earlier report by the MoD of Azerbaijan that the Armenian military fired on Azerbaijani positions along the eastern portion of the border.
That same day, the Artsakh Defense Army reported that the Azerbaijani military fired in the direction of the cemetery of Khramort. No casualties were reported.
On March 8, the MoD of Armenia released a statement denying a report from the MoD of Azerbaijan that the Armenian Armed Forces had fired on Azerbaijani military positions in Artsakh and along the border with Nakhichevan.
“After the provocation carried out by the Azerbaijani side on March 7, the situation along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border is relatively stable and within the full control of the RA Armed Forces,” the Armenian Defense Ministry wrote.
On March 9, the MoD of Armenia reported renewed gunfire along the western portion of the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. At 1:10pm, units of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces opened fire on Armenian military positions. The two sides exchanged fire until 2:00pm.
That same day, the Artsakh Defense Ministry said that the Azerbaijani military fired in the direction of Khnushinaki. It did not report any casualties.
“All the registered cases once again prove the direct and indisputable intention of the Azerbaijani side to disrupt the normal life of the peaceful population of the Artsakh Republic and to ethnically cleanse Artsakh,” said Artsakh’s Human Rights Defender Gegham Stepanyan.
Last month, videos spread on social media depicting Azerbaijani forces ordering Armenian civilians to evacuate border villages in Artsakh by loudspeaker.
“The agricultural work you are currently carrying out is illegal,” can be heard in one video directed to the inhabitants of Khramort. “We demand you stop the work and leave the area immediately, otherwise force will be applied to you. The responsibility for the losses will fall on you.”
“Among the 300 civilians living in the community, there are more than 80 children of preschool and school age, members of the elderly and other psychologically vulnerable groups,” said Stepanyan of Khramort.
“The normal life of the village is paralyzed. People have stopped their agricultural work, which is the main means of livelihood of the civilians.”
Tensions along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border have escalated since mid-February after two months of relative calm.
On February 15, Artsakh soldier Khachatur Gagik Khachatryan was hospitalized in serious condition after coming under Azerbaijani fire. The Artsakh Defense Ministry reported that Khachatryan received a gunshot wound in the “eastern border zone” of the Republic of Artsakh.
Khachatryan was wounded shortly after Azerbaijani soldiers fired at farmers working in Khramort. The soldiers shot a tractor used by the farmers, before Russian peacekeepers intervened to rescue the civilians, according to the Prosecutor General’s Office of Artsakh.
The Artsakh Defense Ministry denied a statement released by the MoD of Azerbaijan on February 21 stating that units of the Artsakh Defense Army fired on Azerbaijani positions near the villages of Shogh and Taghavard. The Artsakh Defense Ministry blamed the attack on Azerbaijan and said there were no casualties.
The Artsakh Defense Ministry reported another ceasefire violation in the direction of the southeastern border of the Republic of Artsakh on February 23, which Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry blamed on the Armenian side.
Meanwhile, the entire territory of the Republic of Artsakh has been deprived of its gas supply since the primary pipeline supplying gas from Armenia was damaged the night of March 8.
The damaged section of the gas pipeline runs through an area under the control of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces. Law enforcement authorities of Artsakh could not determine whether the pipeline was damaged due to actions by the Azerbaijani military.
Spokesperson of the Artsakh Ministry of Internal Affairs Hunan Tadevosyan told reporters that the Russian peacekeeping mission in Artsakh mediated an agreement to allow sapper groups of the Artsakh State Emergency Service to carry out “demining and reconnaissance work in that area.” However, Armenian crews have been prohibited from accessing the pipeline.
The Human Rights Defender’s office said that the Azerbaijani side “obstructs the access of representatives of law enforcement bodies and specialists of the gas supply company to the place of the accident.” As a result, Artsakh representatives have not been able to restore the pipeline.
The Russian peacekeeping contingent in Artsakh also confirmed that no work is being done to restore the pipeline.