Observers warn of imminent fighting in Artsakh

Armenian and Azerbaijani observers have been sounding alarm bells of an imminent military escalation in Artsakh. 

Mutual accusations of ceasefire violations have been increasing in recent weeks. On March 22, Armenian soldier Arshak Sargsyan was killed by Azerbaijani fire near the Yeraskh village on the border of Nakhichevan, according to the Ministry of Defense of Armenia. 

On March 21, two Russian peacekeepers were injured by Azerbaijani gunfire near the Ishkhanasar village in the Syunik province of Armenia. The peacekeepers were assisting in a search-and-rescue operation for an Armenian soldier who went missing after accidentally entering Azerbaijani-controlled territory while driving through foggy weather. The soldier was found on March 22. The Russian soldiers were treated at the Goris hospital.

Attacks on civilians in Artsakh have also been growing. On the morning of March 22, officials in Artsakh say Azerbaijani soldiers fired on civilians working in their vineyards near the town of Chartar in the Martuni province of Artsakh. Civilians working in their fields in the Amaras valley and Taghavard village in Martuni previously came under Azerbaijani fire on March 15 and March 19. No casualties were reported. 

Azerbaijani armed forces have killed six civilians and 15 military officials in Artsakh since the end of the 2020 Artsakh War, according to a report released by the office of Artsakh’s Human Rights Defender on March 8. 

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry has also accused the Armenian armed forces and the Artsakh Defense Army of ceasefire violations in recent weeks. The Defense Ministry said that Azerbaijani positions came under fire on March 13, 15 and 20. The Armenian side denied these reports. The Artsakh Defense Ministry said that Azerbaijani armed forces fired on the northern section of the line of contact on March 10. 

Tensions have been escalating since three Artsakh police officers were killed in an ambush by a dozen Azerbaijani soldiers on March 5. Two Azerbaijani soldiers were also killed in the fighting.  

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev also sparked fear of a military offensive when he threatened during a speech on March 18 that if Armenians want to “live comfortably on an area of 29,000 square kilometers” (the size of Armenia), “Armenia must accept our conditions, officially recognize Karabakh as the territory of Azerbaijan, sign a peace treaty with us and carry out delimitation work according to our conditions.”

“If Armenia does not recognize our territorial integrity, we will not recognize their territorial integrity either,” Aliyev said

Armenian and Azerbaijani analysts have pointed to signs of a new military escalation in Artsakh. Independent Azerbaijani news outlet Mikroskop Media reported on March 13 that Azerbaijani media have been preparing the public for the outbreak of fighting. The outlet said that Azerbaijani TV channels have been warning of an Armenian provocation that would trigger an anti-terrorist operation by Azerbaijan. 

Yerevan-based political scientist Tigran Grigoryan tweeted on March 17 that the “risk of a new Azerbaijani attack in Nagorno-Karabakh is extremely high.” “Baku has been actively preparing ground for the new escalation for weeks,” Grigoryan said. “There are reports about Azerbaijani troops concentrations on the frontline.” 

Warnings of a new military escalation come as the ongoing blockade of Artsakh by Azerbaijan passed its 100-day mark on Tuesday. 

Government-sponsored Azerbaijani protesters posing as environmental activists have blocked the Lachin Corridor, the sole route connecting Artsakh with Armenia and the outside world, since December 12, 2022. Artsakh is facing a critical humanitarian crisis and severe shortages of food, medicine and other basic necessities.

Artsakh typically imports 90-percent of its food from Armenia and other countries, according to a report released by the office of Artsakh’s Human Rights Defender on March 21. Since the closure of the Lachin Corridor, all imports have come to a halt, except for the delivery of almost four-thousand tons of humanitarian aid by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Only ICRC and Russian peacekeeping vehicles have been permitted to use the Lachin Corridor.

Artsakh authorities have rationed pasta, buckwheat, rice, sugar, oil, fruits, vegetables, eggs and laundry detergent through a coupon system. Soap, cleaning products, toilet paper, diapers and feminine hygiene products have consistently been in short supply in grocery stores and pharmacies. 

Surgeries in Artsakh have come to a halt. The ICRC has transported 194 patients from Artsakh to Armenia to receive medical treatment. At least one person has died since the start of the blockade, because he could not be transferred in time for treatment. 

Gas and electricity supplies have also been periodically disrupted since the start of the blockade. Artsakh receives its natural gas from Armenia through a single pipeline that runs through Azerbaijani-controlled territory. Artsakh authorities say that Azerbaijan has deliberately disrupted the gas supply for a total of 34 days since the start of the blockade. The high-voltage power line that provides Artsakh’s electricity supply has been damaged since January 9. The Artsakh government says that Azerbaijan has prohibited specialists from accessing the power line. 

Before the blockade, half of Artsakh’s electricity was supplied by local hydroelectric power plants. Water resources in the Sarsang reservoir are in rapid decline, since the reservoir has been operating at its full capacity. 

“The ongoing blockade of Artsakh and disruption of vital infrastructure by Azerbaijan, as well as the regular and consistent armed attacks, aim at subjecting Artsakh to ethnic cleansing through physical and psychological intimidation, creating unbearable conditions and destroying the indigenous Armenian population of Artsakh,” the report from the Artsakh Ombudsman’s office says. 

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian is the assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly. She reports on international women's rights, South Caucasus politics, and diasporic identity. Her writing has also been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Democracy in Exile, and Girls on Key Press. She holds master's degrees in journalism and Near Eastern studies from New York University.


  1. Russian “peacekeepers” could easily end the “blockade.”

    All Putin would have to do is make a quick call to Aliyev.

    (By the way, ever wonder how these “peacekeepers” get their own supplies? They seem to have no problem whatsoever.)

    In reality, Moscow is holding Artsakh hostage to pressure and embarrass Armenia and its government into total submission to Russia.

    That’s because without Armenia (Moscow’s only ally in the Caucasus), Russia loses the entire Caucasus to NATO and the EU.

    That’s also why Russia and the CSTO won’t do anything to stop the Azeri invasion and occupation of southern Armenia — even though Russia/CSTO are obligated to do so by treaty.

    In a nutshell, it’s all to pressure Armenia, which Moscow fears is headed West.

    It’s embarrassing to point out these obvious things, but so few Armenians seem to be willing
    to do so publicly.

    We’re telling fairy tales to our own people. It’s hard to see how lack of candor will help Armenia and Artsakh.

    • Russia is punishing Armenians to some extent for putting into power a Western and Turkish financed regime, not once but twice. A similar thing happened in Azerbaijan in the early 1990s which resulted in the Armenian liberation of NKR. A similar thing happened in Georgia in 2008. A similar thing is happening in Ukraine today. You therefore answered your own question. In the big picture, Russia is doing the right thing because Armenia will die without Russia. No Russia in the south Caucasus = no Armenia on the world map. Armenia’s independence from Russia will be default result in Armenia’s dependence on Turkey. Perhaps that is what you and your like want. Won’t happen. Russia and Iran will ravage Armenia before turning it over to Western powers or Turkey. The last 30 years have shown beyond any doubt that Armenians are not ready for independence. The safest place for Armenia to be is within the Russian Federation in some form. Everything else is a pipe dream.

    • Russian peace keepers operate under a strict mandate that is defined in the November 9 agreement that pashinyan signed. They have no legal right to use force against any side in Artsakh. They can’t just use force against the azeri road blockers to open the road. David you should do some research before using every opportunity to spray your venom.

      During this blockade, both azeris and pashinyan have worked in a synchronised manner to force Russian peace keepers to make a wrong move, thereby raising tensions and opening up a second war front for Russia that’s in an existial fight for survival elsewhere. It’s a joint western effort and our pashinyan has made Armenia a battleground for foreign powers. The traitor and his family deserve a traitor’s fate. And the Armenian people both in Armenia and diaspora that at any time since 2018 that supported this traitor over Serj Sarkisyan deserve everything that’s happened and will happen to Armenia and Artsakh. And believe me, there’s more to come.

    • What is the benefit of Armenia pivoting west? Will the US sends troops to help Armenia take back Artsakh? Artsakh will be lost forever. The US may send a few weapons and training to Armenia but they will not allow Armenia to take back what is hers. Meanwhile Armenian resources will be plundered by American corporations and American brand Wokism will devastate Armenian society. Relations with Iran will worsen also as Armenian leaders answer to only their U.S. overlords.

      No, Armenia needs to remove Pashinyan and install competent leadership. And rebuild a strong military. An Alliance with Russia and Iran is a must given our geographic situation.

    • I agree Vartan but trust me when I say Russia and Iran will turn Armenia into a burning parking lot before allowing it to fall into Western hands. Armenia has no choices or options, absolutely none. Armenia must remain with Russia and Iran. Look at what happened to Ukraine. A very country and industrialized country with one of the largest and best financed militaries in the world is gradually being eradicated. Hundreds of thousand of Ukrainians have died and much of eastern Ukraine is a wasteland and the war is not even over. If the pro-Western mercenaries in Armenian society get their way the same will happen to Armenia but will happen overnight. Anyone suggesting that Armenia need to look westward for help is an enemy of Armenia or just plain stupid.

  2. When lame sheep are selected to lead Armenia, the wolves all licked their filthy mouths and gathered, then pounced and are feeding and conquering because we have our current leaders smell like fear, talk like loosers and have no diplomatic experiance whatsoever to negotiate, I knew in 2018 we would loose most of Artsakh when defeatists were voted in, he is great at jailing and sending to court previous government ministers and maybe even rightly so, but in the process they have reduced us to what we are today. Nikol must go

  3. For 30 years Armenia was the guarantor of Artsakh’s safety and did a great job as those Armenian lands were not only liberated but prospered. NOT ANY MORE. That all changed when the useless incompetent traitor was “elected”. FACT: He presided over the LOSS OF MUCH OF ARTSAKH with the deaths of thousands of Armenian youth and the wounding of thousands more and even with lands that are now being occupied in Armenia itself. Ever notice he takes no responsibility yet always blames others? His rhetoric on Artsakh safety is vague at best. He often hides. I believe he actually hates Artsakh. He rid seasoned generals one by one who all knew the art of war and installed incompetents just like him. The Turks are ultra opportunists. They saw and still see a great opportunity in Pashinyan. The results are clear. He weakened Armenian in many ways. Hes a gift to Azerbaijan. Pashinyan needs to be rid immediately. ITS THAT SIMPLE.

  4. How is that US installed person still in power? He will never step down no matter what. Remember the so called “dictators” willfully gave over power under US pressure. This clown will never stand down even if 90% of the country burns. Anyone could have told you what would happen to Artsakh back when the US coup put this regime in power. That’s not even what gets me, what gets me is how easily the US was able to convince so much of the population, especially naive youths, to support these shameless crooks and liars. This is the most incompetent and corrupt administration in the history of Armenia. Most Armenians with ties to the country would be afraid to speak like this openly because the Armenian US puppet uses his security service to spy on and suppress his opposition. Weaponized US backed media is all over the country and rotting everyone’s minds, and distorting reality. The country needs to wake up before it’s too late.

    Now he’s announced “Turkey is our best buddy now and doesn’t wish us any harm! Don’t worry my EU American puppet masters have promised me this. What a joke. Then these commenters have the nerve to blame Russia. Armenia deserves it’s fate as the next Ukraine. You’ve had your US puppet regime for years now. How have your lives improved since then? The future of Armenia is a scrap heap because of you idiots. Don’t expect Russia or Iran to lift one finger when the Turks finish their job and your American masters can’t be bothered to send anything more than “thoughts and prayers.” Clown world.

  5. In 2016 under the apparently patriotic leadership who hadn’t recognised Arktash as independent from Azerbaijan and persued prevarication in the negotiations, whilst Azerbaijan continued to vastly improve its military, in many ways these people left a time bomb for Armenia and Arktash! cracks began to emerge when Azerbaijan made some territorial gains. In 2018 the lousy Pashinyan took power although the previous government was something of a hoary old guard (experts in how to fight the last war which over time does no favours) from the 1990’s. The balance of power was no longer in Armenia favour in 2018 when he took power and yes he probably sees Arktash as a liability and a lost cause. Whoever succeeds him will have the conundrum of how to undertake domestic and foreign affairs. Some issues such as the contention between Russia and the USA, something that Armenia has no real influence over yet will have a bearing upon Armenia and cannot be ignored and will have to be addressed by any successor. The issue of Arktash now gravelly imperilled would challenge any leader to rectify given the relative weakness of Armenia and the LACK of international support for an independent Arktash let alone united with Armenia. Obviously there are the more mundane employment, inflation and social issues aswell. A post Pashinyan Armenia might not be as bright as the anti Pashinyan faction assume! The reason he was reelected in 2021 is that in private people realised that having lost military assets in a much faster pace than in the last war to weapons that didn’t exist then, to admit this in public would have seemed like treason and denigrating and the ossified and increasingly unpopular nature of the previous administration meant despite the tragedy he was reelected. It wasn’t an approval of his leadership as such but a private statement of realisim. In Britain successful wartime leader Churchill was voted out in 1945 as he wasn’t seen as having the best vision for the future not as a rejection of his leadership during the conflict.

    • I agree with the 2016 small territorial losses playing a big role. I remember thinking that at the time, that this modest loss will be costly for the old guard. High standards back then, about 600 hectares all it was.

  6. The statement made by Russian president Putin about Artskah after the 2020 terrorist invasion of Artsakh jointly by NATO member terrorist Turkey and criminal Azerbaijan proved that Russia never was on Armenia’s side in the resolution of this conflict. This does not mean that Russia was on Azerbaijan’s side either. Russia was only on Russia’s side. According to Putin the breakup of Soviet Union was one of Russia’s major geopolitical tragedies and based on his latest behavior and stand on Ukraine, and threats against other former Soviet republics, shows that Putin still thinks the Soviet Union got away from them and he is acting as if these are all still Russian territories. This stand by Russia becomes even more pronounced, by direct or indirect threats and retaliations, when these countries act independently of Russia even though they are independent states today. Therefore, Russia by taking such a pro-Russian stand on all local matters, while undermining the sovereignty and independence of former Soviet republics, shows that Putin is trying to reassert his power on these states and wants to reestablish the former Soviet boundaries. In this context, from the point of view of the Russian leadership, Artskah could neither be an independent state nor should it be able to reunite with Armenia and that it can only be under Russian rule which is why the Russians re-established themselves in South Caucasus, in the conflict zone for the time being, after thirty years of absence, when they threw themselves in the middle of this conflict in the last minutes of the latest armed conflict when they sent in their occupying troops into the region disguised as peacekeepers. Now that they are there, they are playing both sides as they always had done in the past. Russians could end this blockade overnight if they wanted to but their long-term plan requires that they let this drag on because that legitimizes the Russian presence there. I can’t help but to believe that any action shown by Russia that may seem anti-Armenian or even pro-Azerbaijani is in reality only pro-Russian because in the eyes of the Russian leadership to make the Russian ‘empire’ whole again by returning to former Soviet times requires the control of terrorist Azerbaijan over this Armenian territory!

    PS. I find it rather interesting and quite hypocritical of Russia to invade and reduce Ukraine to rubbles merely under the suspicion of Ukraine wanting to join the NATO alliance while at the same time having no problem allowing NATO member terrorist Turkey to show its ugly face in Russian’s ‘backyard’ in the South Caucasus after a hundred years of absence and not only threaten but actively involve militarily on enemy Azerbaijan’s behalf against Russia’s only loyal Armenian ally on whose sovereign territory Russia still has military bases and whose troops were kicked out and bases closed down for good in the other two South Caucasus states!

    • That Armenians are still talking about hypocrisy, friends, enemies, justice and ethics, is beyond belief, and quite indicative of all the troubles the homeland continues to be in. Welcome to the world of realpolotik. There are no friends or enemies in politics. There are only national interests and cold calculations. It’s kill or be killed. It’s conquer or be conquered. Those who understand how the game is played, live and grow. Those who don’t, remain backward, embattled, impoverished and threatened. Russians, Europeans, Chinese, Jews, Turks, etc., represent the former. Armenian, Kurds, Assyrians, Gypsies, Copts, etc., represent the latter. Armenia will begin to be taken seriously by the “international community” only when it rejoins Mother Russia. Everything else is a pipe dream as said…

    • @Concerned Armenian
      I sure hope you read what you write before you post your comments. You say and I quote “It’s conquer or be conquered.” Russia already conquered Armenia about a hundred years ago and kept it so for seven decades WHILE squandering Armenia and forcing out and exiling those Armenians who displayed their patriotism and blocked entry into Armenia all the Diaspora elites and patriots and forced the Russian language on the Armenian population and turned many of them into passive Russophile zombies through institutional brainwashing and forced indoctrination. Why would you want to rejoin your former conqueror and squanderer who has no problem and won’t think twice selling you out to your existential enemies for the sake of his own self-interests? Are you that much self-loathing and detached from your own Armenian identity that you are willing to become somebody else’s slave?

  7. @ Concerned Armenian, Wanting to reunite with ‘Mother’ Russia is a pipe dream and would be treated as an appendage of Russia in the “International Community” given the current situation Russia is in. Whilst modern rump Armenia is a post Soviet entity the Armenian identity and nation is rather older than Russia hence it can’t be ‘mother’ to Armenia!

    Ps try some actual dispassionate realpolitik yourself and resist your sentimental obsession with Russia, even Kremlin shill and Armeneophobe Andrew Korybko who used to very jaunty in his writings about Russia is more middle ground and the semi mystic Saker blogger also an Armeneophobe who would constantly cite the amazingness of Russian Military and its equipment and would carefully explain a way out reason for the losses of Russian military assets in Syria the colossal military losses in Ukraine for limited gains has led to him closing his blog

    Kill or be killed, conquer or be conquered initially seemed to work marvels for nazi Germany; still paying the price decades later for a few years of glory!

  8. If Armenia rejoins mother Russia it will be an poor and weak State. Not able to defend itself and even if, Russia is going to collapse. Russia is also Armenia’s enemy

    • If Russia is Armenia enemy, then what is Turkey? Armenia deserves it fate at this point. US will try to pull it out of Russia’s orbit, then Turkey will slowly swallow it whole while the US led word pretends to not notice. The US doesn’t care about Armenia. The only value Armenia has to the US is as a battering ram against Russia. Russia uses management of the Azeri/Turk threat to keep Armenia in check, but they underestimated just what a shameless self obsessed dictator the US puppet Nicole actually is. Good luck getting your asylum in the US when Turkey lays waste to your country. Hopefully you enjoy your new life in little Armenia Glendale California. You can sit around with the other losers and wonder where it all went wrong.

      Armenians seem to be surprisingly dim and naive. Maybe it just shows how effective weaponization of proliferated social media. So many delusional “geniuses” convinced Armenia would become like Germany in the span of 10 years under Nicole. How is that going for you? How much have your material conditions improved since 2018? Zero? Wow that’s a shock considering you replaced a moderately incompetent and moderately corrupt government that at least had national sovereignty in the place of a foreign backed regime that’s vastly more incompetent and corrupt, and dictated by international capital. Becoming a colony isn’t an upgrade. You’d be better off under the thumb of your own local plutocracy than you’d be into turning that plutocracy into local collaborators of a colonial power.

  9. No one is talking about what happens after Putin is eliminated. if Russian sentiment swings wildly in the opposite direction, and we find someone like Navalny someone more likely to lean towards the west, to lean towards the west what would that mean? Would Turkey then finally be marginalized?

    • Navalny is a joke. The most obvious Anglo American agent of all time. Moscow doesn’t play those games, he’s lucky they aren’t considering him an enemy combatant like the humane “land of the free” with 600% higher incarceration than China, 25% of it’s prisoners, called the United States would do. If Putin was somehow replaced, waiting in the wings are nationalists who are not nearly as measured or enlightened as he is. Same for China. Liberals are a farce in Russia. They only have sway with the younger demographics and the cosmo-elite of wealthy Stalingrad. Even with memories of the 90’s distant and fading. The legitimate opposition is on the far left and the far right. The liberals in Russia are just foreign agents. Turkey isn’t going anywhere either. It’s vastly too important to the US, the nato state within a state tentacles are so deep in that country the house of saud will sooner collapse than Turkey liberating itself. The Shah would sooner regain control of Iran than NATO will be evicted from Turkey. Armenia just isn’t important enough for anyone. Armenians are more likely to become like Palestinians. So like I said in another comment good luck with your asylum claims.

  10. Concerned Armenian?
    If BS could float in space, you would be smashed by a comet. Have another shot of vodka, Comrade Mikhail. The Russians handed the, Eastern Province of Armenia to Turkey and Nakicevan to Azerbaijan, back in 1921, and they called it, the Secret Moscow Treaty, aka, the Freindship Treaty, and you’re crying for the Armenians not uniting with the Russians. Tell your boss, Vladovich, to fix this problem first, then a future democratically elected Armenian government might take you guys seriously. After all, they don’t call the Russians, White Turks, for nothing.

    • Amazing how little Armenians understand their own history. “Moscow” at the time also gave away Russian lands. Moscow in 1921 represent an occupation force inside Russia. It was not until the 1930s that Joseph Stalin was able to bring all the territories of the former Russian Empire back under Moscow. 1936 is incidentally when the Soviet Republic of Armenia was formed. Besides, Armenians cant complain about Bolsheviks gacing Armenian lands away to anyone because the brilliant minds in Yerevan were opposing Bolshevik rule because they were waiting for salvation from the West. Sounds familiar? Like I said, amazing…

  11. Every country is looking out for their own interests. Armenians should do so too. Stop looking for a protector. No one will compromise their own interests for Armenia. No one was preventing the Armenians from building their military to keep pace with the tatars (Azeris). But we relied too much on the Russians and didn’t build up the way we should have. Then the Armenian people foolishly elect a western plant who distances the country from Russia and makes moves toward the west – what did we think was going to happen? Since we neglected improving our military our only protection was Russia and we foolishly scuttled that. Just poor leadership all around. Now we are paying the price (the people of Artsakh most of all). We have a lot of growing up to do politically and spiritually as a nation/people.

  12. Russia is the dominant influence in the region. It makes every sense in the world to be allied with them. Specially with the Turkic enemy on both sides of the border. It makes no sense to sacrifice that alliance for the US which is on the other side of the world and whatever influence they had in the near east is diminished. Armenia could be their last gasp – they have no capability or interest really to help Armenia. Except to use it as a wedge against Russia and Iran, which is very dangerous for Armenia –

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