In the early afternoon of September 19, Azerbaijan’s armed forces launched a large-scale military offensive along the entire length of the line of contact with Artsakh, using rocket artillery strikes and unmanned aerial vehicles.
Civilian infrastructure and homes in Artsakh’s capital Stepanakert and other towns and villages are under intensive shelling. The Artsakh Defense Army has reported that the Azerbaijani armed forces have attempted advances into Artsakh. The Artsakh Health Ministry recorded 80 injuries, 15 of whom are civilians, and five deaths.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry has called the attacks “anti-terrorist activities” for the purpose to “disarm and secure the withdrawal of formations of Armenia’s armed forces” and “restore the constitutional order of the Republic of Azerbaijan.” Armenian authorities have said, however, that no units of the Armenian armed forces are stationed in Artsakh, which the International Crisis Group has verified.
The attack comes nine months into Azerbaijan’s ongoing blockade of Artsakh. Azerbaijan has closed the Berdzor (Lachin) Corridor, the sole route connecting the region with the outside world. The blockade has precipitated a humanitarian crisis, depriving Artsakh residents of food, medicine and basic necessities. Azerbaijan has also disrupted Artsakh’s fuel and gas supplies, restricting the movement of ambulances and cars. According to local reports, some parents have been unable to locate their children and transport them to bunkers due to the fuel shortage.
Artsakh’s Foreign Ministry said that the purpose of the military offensive is to ethnically cleanse Artsakh of its Armenian population and force the residents of Artsakh to leave their homes. “The failure of international actors to lift the blockade and prevent genocide in Artsakh lit a green light for Azerbaijan to launch a military offensive against the 120,000 people in Artsakh under siege,” Artsakh’s Foreign Ministry said.
The office of the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev said that in order for the “anti-terror measures to stop, the illegal Armenian military formations must raise the white flag, all weapons must be handed over, and the illegal regime must be dissolved.”
European Council President Charles Michel called the news from Artsakh “devastating.” “Military actions of Azerbaijan must be immediately halted to allow for a genuine dialogue between Baku and Karabakh Armenians,” Michel said.
Azerbaijani authorities said they alerted Russian peacekeepers based in Artsakh prior to launching the military operation. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova denied this claim. She called for de-escalation from both sides.
The Weekly is closely monitoring developments on the ground.