In order to restore constitutional order and drive out what it said were Armenian military formations there, Azerbaijan initiated “anti-terrorist activities” in the Nagorno-Karabakh territory, a move that could portend a new war in the area.
Unverified social media footage taken on Tuesday in Stepanakert, the capital of Karabakh (referred to by Azerbaijan as Khankendi), revealed loud shelling.
In a statement, the Azerbaijani defence ministry stated that it intended to “neutralise their military infrastructure” as well as “disarm and secure the withdrawal of Armenia’s armed formations from our territories.”
As part of what it dubbed a campaign to “restore the constitutional order of the Republic of Azerbaijan,” it claimed that it was only employing “high precision weapons” to target authorised military targets and avoiding civilians.
It further stated that civilians were able to flee via what it referred to as humanitarian corridors, one of which headed to Armenia.
According to Armenia, which claims that its armed forces are not in Karabakh, the situation on its own border with Azerbaijan remains stable, according to a statement released by its defence ministry.
With a population that is almost exclusively of Armenian descent and accepted internationally as being a part of Azerbaijan, Karabakh broke away from Baku’s rule in the early 1990s following a war.
In a 2020 war, Azerbaijan regained large portions of the surrounding area, but ethnic Armenian rulers who see the- area as their ancestral homeland, remained in control of part of Karabakh, including its capital.
Despite frequent shelling and accusations from both sides, the cease-fire agreement that Russia mediated and implemented has remained precarious.
Moscow, which is enmeshed in its own conflict in Ukraine, has been charged by Armenia as being too preoccupied to ensure its security.
The foreign ministry of Russia stated that it was in touch with Azerbaijan and will issue a statement shortly.
Ruben Vardanyan, a billionaire banker who was a top official in Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian administration until February, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter:
“Azerbaijan has initiated a massive artillery attack against Nagorno Karabakh, targeting cities and civilians on a large scale.”
Baku said it had informed Russia’s peacekeeping force along with a Turkish-Russian monitoring centre which is meant to help ensure the 2020 ceasefire is upheld.
Baku announced its operation after complaining that six of its citizens had been killed by land mines in two separate incidents, something it blamed on “illegal Armenian armed groups.”
The escalation took place the day after urgently needed food and medication were simultaneously supplied along two roads to Karabakh, a move that appeared to have the potential to reduce the increasing tension between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Baku had until recently placed severe restrictions on the Lachin corridor, the sole road connecting Armenia and Karabakh, and had refused to allow aid into the region on the grounds that it was allegedly being used for arms smuggling.
Armenia has claimed that Baku’s actions were illegal, which Azerbaijan rejected but which are supposed to have led to a humanitarian catastrophe.
Azerbaijan’s diplomatic posture appeared to be laying the groundwork for some sort of military action, according to comments made by Armenia’s foreign ministry on Monday.
(With agency inputs)