Revitalised Round of Hostilities by Azerbaijan: Latest

Revitalised Round of Hostilities by Azerbaijan: Latest

Last night a gas pipeline stretching from Armenia to Artsakh was damaged near Azerbaijani military positions. The Azerbaijanis have been blocking any chance of beginning repair work. Russian peacekeepers are on their way. In other words, a new string of Azerbaijani hostilities has yet again begun.

Zareh Sevag Sarkissian

 

Azerbaijan recently released an aggravating statement threatening the peaceful population of Artsakh and even the present Russian Peacekeepers in response to the Russian Defence Ministry’s information about assistance sent to Ukraine during which they used the term "Nagorno-Karabakh", and that angered Baku.

Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said, "The use of the term 'Nagorno-Karabakh' in the statement of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation in the context of humanitarian aid sent to Ukraine is unacceptable."

“Such statements may damage Azerbaijani-Russian relations and lead to an aggravation of the situation along with the territory of Azerbaijan, where the Russian peacekeeping forces are temporarily stationed,” said Azerbaijan’s MoD in a statement. They continued by saying, “There is no administrative and territorial unit called 'Nagorno-Karabakh' in the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan."

 

The Premise

Before the Russian military intervention in Ukraine on February 22, Presidents Vladimir Putin and Ilham Aliyev held a four-hour-long meeting in Moscow that concluded with a Declaration on Allied Interaction between the Russian Federation and Azerbaijan. The Russian President stressed that special attention was paid to normalising relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan during the talks.

 

Putin noted that he agreed to facilitate the unblocking of all economic and transport ties with Aliyev, stressing that it is about the implementation of straightforward programs in the spheres of cargo and passenger transportations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and other countries in the region, also in the commercial, industrial, agricultural, and infrastructure spheres. As well as assisting in resolving any disputed matters including border issues.

Referring to the signed declaration, Putin noted a strategic document that takes Russian-Azerbaijani relations to a qualitatively new level. Aliyev, in his turn, said that the document opens new perspectives in Russian-Azerbaijani relations. According to him, the document was developed within a year and includes 43 points. Though he later mentioned talks had begun as early as 2020.

This declaration seems to have further emboldened the Azeri provocation towards Armenian settlements in Artsakh. Despite the hostilities predating the Russian MoD's mention of Artsakh, they are not by any means unrelated to the rekindled war in Ukraine (began in 2014 and not 2022). With Russian President Putin's massive miscalculations in Ukraine, all Russian high command's eyes are set there, with lesser attention drawn on their military forces located elsewhere, i.e., Artsakh.

Due to the brutal and criminal nature of waging combat, discretion has been the ally to the Azerbaijani military forces, or even to their civil populace's attitude for that matter. The war in Ukraine has given them a new window to resume their agenda on Artsakh's population regardless of the Russian peacekeepers stationed there.
Earlier this year, the two leaders had met to discuss Ukraine and maintain friendly relations, but the confirmation to strengthen their partnership was announced in December 2021.

 

Renewed Skirmishes

Sergeant Hrach Manasaryan was killed in Azerbaijan's shooting from across the western border near Yeraskh village on Monday, March 7 morning. Another Armenian soldier was wounded, but his life was not in danger.

 

Psychological Warfare

Azerbaijan has been keeping the atmosphere tense in the vicinity of the village of Khramort, Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh), staging provocations and trying to disrupt the village's everyday life, the Artsakh Prosecutor General's office said in a statement Sunday, March 6.

According to recent multiple reports, mortars were also being fired at the positions of the Artsakh Defence Army by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces near Khramort. A common tactic by the enemy to enforce and escalate the situation and ramp up as many Armenian casualties as they possibly can.

Azeri troops have been building up psychological tension by announcing demoralising statements via loudspeakers and using force in the face of defiance. They then began to open heavy small arms fire towards the Armenian village. The intensive fire lasted for about five to six minutes and stopped only after the Armenian retaliatory fire.

"The situation calmed down due to the operative response of the Russian peacekeeping forces," said the statement.

Khramort village chief Zorik Abrahamyan noted that there is no guarantee that the Azerbaijanis won't target civilians working in the field, even if peacekeepers are present. Many such cases have already occurred during the past, which lead to the fatal injuries of several ethnic Armenian villagers.

A similar stunt of terrorisation was performed by Azeri troops who played loud Islamic calls to prayers near Askeran village.

 

Kangaroo trial

Before those, another mock trial of two Armenian prisoners of war ended on March 7th. The first hearing took place on February 28. The servicemen, Ishkhan Sargsyan and Vladimir Rafaelyan, were charged for "terrorism" by illegally crossing the Azerbaijani border in May 2021 towards temporarily occupied Karvachar.

The service members were sentenced to 20 and 19 years, respectively. They are to serve nine years in prison, completing the rest of their sentence in a corrective colony regime. According to the trilateral agreement of November 2020, all POWs were to be released immediately.

 

Blatant Lies

Predating all the above, an unpopular visit (not for the incumbent government) of two Azeri lawmakers in Armenia to attend a session of a parliamentary assembly of the European Union and ex-Soviet states involved in the EU’s Eastern Partnership program sparked a scandal.

While in Yerevan, they visited the city’s Blue Mosque and later posted photographs of themselves standing at its picturesque courtyard on social media. Both men wrote that the Muslim shrine is the “sole Azerbaijani monument” preserved in the Armenian capital and expressed confidence that its “real masters” will be able to pray there soon.

The current Armenian government made no response, but the backlash was met by the Iranian embassy itself when it stated: “The Blue Mosque, a symbol of Iranian art, has been active again in the last three decades as the praying and congregation place of Muslims residing in Armenia and a touristic attraction. It is a great pleasure that its centuries-old Persian epigraphy has been preserved! Who can read them?” it said in English.