Azerbaijan has seized the village of Parukh in Artsakh, while two Armenian soldiers have been killed in ongoing attacks using combat drones.
Artsakh Defense Army officials report that on March 24, Azerbaijani forces took control of Parukh in the region of Askeran. Women and children were evacuated from the nearby Khramort village following the Azerbaijani advance. Azeri troops did not retreat after Russian peacekeepers and state bodies of Artsakh held negotiations to persuade the soldiers to return to their starting positions.
Overnight, Azeri units opened fire on the Artsakh Defense Army using firearms of different calibers and attack drones. Five Azerbaijani soldiers were killed, and five Armenian soldiers were wounded in the crossfire, the Artsakh Defense Army reports.
Azerbaijani forces continued to violate the ceasefire on March 25, using firearms and combat drones, including the Bayraktar-TB2. Two Armenian soldiers were killed, according to Artsakh authorities.
Artsakh Human Rights Defender Gegham Stepanyan, who visited a military hospital in Stepanakert on Friday, said at least 14 soldiers have been wounded, two in extremely severe condition. “Private conversations with the wounded revealed that almost all cases of injuries were registered due to the use of drones by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces,” tweeted Stepanyan’s office.
Yerevan-based analyst Tigran Grigoryan says that the Russian peacekeeping force in Artsakh mediated a deal with Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers several days ago to mutually withdraw from Parukh. While the Armenian side retreated, the Azerbaijani forces “jumped at the opportunity and captured the village without any actual resistance from the Russian side,” Grigoryan wrote on Twitter.
MP from the ruling New Azerbaijan Party Elman Mammadov has called for the “separatists and terrorists” living in Artsakh and the “military” of Artsakh to be “cleansed.” “The Armenians living in those areas before 1988 and their descendants must adopt the laws of Azerbaijan. Otherwise, Armenians who are not our citizens cannot live in our territories,” he said.
The Azerbaijani side has denied any escalation of violence. The Ministry of Defense (MoD) of Azerbaijan says that “positions and deployment locations are being clarified” and that “no clashes or incidents have occurred.”
“The situation is artificially exaggerated by Armenian sources. The purpose is to create an atmosphere that can trigger deliberate hysteria, confuse and mislead the public,” the MoD of Azerbaijan wrote in a statement on March 24.
That same day, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) of Armenia released a statement calling on the international community to make a “clear assessment of Azerbaijan’s provocative actions aimed at undermining the peace process and to support efforts for establishing peace in the South Caucasus and achieving a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) conflict.”
“We expect the peacekeeping force of the Russian Federation to undertake measures to ensure the immediate withdrawal of the infiltrated units of the Azerbaijani armed forces from the area of responsibility of the Russian peacekeeping contingent, which should imply the return of the Azerbaijani armed forces to the starting position of March 23,” the MoFA of Armenia said in a separate statement on March 25.
Armenian Defense Minister Suren Papikyan held a phone call with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu on March 24 to discuss the escalation in Artsakh. Shoigu said that “necessary steps” are being taken toward its “peaceful resolution.”
The MoFA of Azerbaijan dismissed the statements from the Armenian Foreign Ministry as “disinformation.” It called for the complete withdrawal of Armenian soldiers from Artsakh, a request it has repeatedly forwarded in recent days, and the normalization of Armenia-Azerbaijan relations on the basis of international law.
Armenia has submitted a request to the European Court of Human Rights for an urgent interim measure against Azerbaijan, Stepanyan reported.
The US Department of State said it is “deeply concerned” about “Azerbaijan’s troop movement” and called on both Armenia and Azerbaijan to “use direct communications channels to immediately deescalate.”
The latest attacks follow heightened tensions in Artsakh since late February. Late last month, videos circulated on social media depicting Azerbaijani forces ordering Armenian civilians to evacuate border villages in Artsakh by loudspeaker. On March 9, Azerbaijan’s military shelled the villages of Khramort and Nakhichanik in Askeran and Khnushinak and Karmir Shuka in Martuni.
Meanwhile Artsakh authorities say that Azerbaijan has been disrupting the supply of natural gas to Artsakh, leaving the residents of Artsakh without heating in freezing temperatures. Artsakh receives its energy supply from a single gas pipeline from Armenia that crosses through territory near Shushi, which has been under Azerbaijani control since the 2020 Artsakh War. The Azerbaijani side prohibited Armenian crews from accessing the damaged section of the pipeline for over a week. While the pipeline was restored on March 19 following Russian mediation, the natural gas supply was interrupted once again on March 21, which Armenian officials blame on Azerbaijani intervention.
“Artsakh is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe,” Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan said on March 24 regarding the disruption of the gas supply. “This unequivocally shows Azerbaijan’s policy towards the Armenians of Artsakh, that is, to make it impossible for them to live in their own homeland.”
Editor’s Note: At 1:58 PM ET, the Artsakh Defense Army announced on Twitter that three servicemen were killed during Azerbaijan’s attacks on the eastern border of Artsakh: Davit Mirzoyan (Born 1978), Ishkhan Ohanyan (Born 1994) and Ararat Tevosyan (Born 1990).