The Assault in the East

The Assault in the East

November 16th marked the largest Armenian-Azerbaijani clashes since 2020’s 44 Day War in Artsakh. This time Azerbaijan attacked the Republic of Armenia itself. Here is what happened on that day and prior to the attack.

Text: Zareh-Sevag Sarkissian

 

On November 16, Armenia witnessed the largest Azerbaijani offensive ever on its soil since the conclusion of the Second Artsakh War that ended last November. Due to incompetence, ill preparation, and erroneous strategic decisions, the Armenian side eventually capitulated against the Azerbaijani Armed Forces. This culminated into a spiral of chaotic events that ultimately led to yesterday's Azerbaijani offensive on key positions and roads in Syunik province i.e., Armenian proper.

The major Azerbaijani-led offensive began at around 1 pm aimed at several Armenian positions along the entire eastern border of the Republic of Armenia (RA). Many Azerbaijani subdivisions took part in the offensive, supplemented by armoured vehicles, firearms of different calibres, and heavy artillery fire. The RA Armed Forces subdivisions defended their ground to prevent the enemy's advance. The battles kept raging on, with losses stacking up on both sides and the loss of two Armenian military bases at around 4 pm. However, the intensity of the battles did not simmer down as time passed with the situation remaining extremely tense.

True to their customs, a large disinformation campaign also took place by the Azerbaijani authorities and conspirators during this entire situation blaming the Armenian side for enticing violence and starting the offensive by attacking Azerbaijani positions along the border.

The heavy fighting continued for a few more hours lasting until early evening, when the newly-appointed Minister of Defence, Suren Papikyan (a rather controversial figure) – appointed on November 15 – held a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart, Army General Sergei Shoigu, during which the latter expressed readiness to make every effort to end hostilities, return prisoners of war, and resolve the situation.  A ceasefire was thus agreed upon through the mediation of the Russian government at 6:30 pm.

As of today, the border situation was relatively stable and the ceasefire agreement was generally being observed. The enemy's losses, as a result of the November 16 hostilities, amounted up to 70 killed and wounded servicemen, 4 BTR armoured personnel carriers, 1 Sandcat armoured vehicle, 5 transport vehicles, as well as significant losses in military equipment.

The Armenian losses confirmed by the RA's Ministry of Defence (MoD) were 1 killed and 13 captured servicemen, with another 24 servicemen missing in action. The two aforementioned military bases remain under enemy hands.

The entire event that took place was by no means isolated. It was part of a larger series of offenses committed by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces during the past week again on the eastern Armenian-Azerbaijani border. A campaign of taunting and probing by the Azerbaijani aggressors saw their armed forces engage in many violations and skirmishes against that of the RA particularly on the 14th of November. The attacks began at 2 pm and were repulsed by the RA subdivisions present at the site of the incursions and ended at around 7 pm. There were no casualties from the Armenian side that day, and wide-spreading rumours on social networks of enemy armoured vehicles penetrating the RA were declared false by the RA MoD. The enemy eventually withdrew after Russian-mediated negotiations.

A day prior, on November 13, at around 12:10 pm, Azerbaijani Armed Forces opened fire on Armenian positions located in the direction of the Gegharkunik region on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, particularly in the direction of Verin Shorzha. The enemy's fire was silenced by retaliatory actions, and no there were no victims from the Armenian side.

The incumbent Armenian Human Rights Defender, Armen Tatoyan believes the real reason behind Azerbaijan's decision to open border and customs checkpoints on a key interstate road in the south of Armenia is the established policy of propaganda of hatred and enmity against Armenians under the auspices of the Azerbaijani state.

"In addition, the Azerbaijani authorities are well aware that the blocking of the Goris-Kapan road or the so-called Azerbaijani border and customs control will lead to violations of the rights of civilians, serious humanitarian problems, including the isolation of many settlements," the Ombudsman continued.

Alongside that, the territory in which the Azeri forces attacked Syunik was the nearest point to their exclave of Nakhichevan. This demonstrates that their war-fueling rhetoric of "liberating Zangezur" is part of their strategy to reunite with that exclave while cutting off and isolating the rest of Syunik province from the remainder of the RA. 

As of November 17, the situation seemed calm and the ceasefire prevailed. However, it is uncertain when another attack may take place, where it may unfold, nor is it certain what fate awaits the captured servicemen who remain under the hands of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces.

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