Azerbaijan has said it has launched an “anti-terrorist” campaign in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, as bombing raids were reported in the regional capital of Stepanakert and at other Armenian positions.
The bombardment of the blockaded region, which local Armenians call Artsakh, could reopen a bloody 2020 war in which Azerbaijan retook land from a local Armenian population amid widespread accusations of war crimes.
Video from Stepanakert appeared to show bomb raid warnings blaring and the audible sounds of artillery fire. Other video from the region seemed to show Azerbaijan using drones to strike Armenian anti-air defence positions. Artillery fire, possibly from a Grad multiple rocket launcher system, could also be heard on the outskirts of the city of Askeran.
“As part of the measures, positions on the frontline and in-depth, long-term firing points of the formations of Armenia’s armed forces, as well as combat assets and military facilities are incapacitated using high-precision weapons,” the Azerbaijani ministry of defence said in a statement.
The ministry claimed weapons were not being used against civilian positions but the strikes were clearly being carried out in close proximity to major cities and population centres.
“We have heard lots of explosions in Stepanakert, it was both artillery shelling and UAV strikes, drone strikes,” said Artak Beglaryan, a former adviser to the self-declared government of Artsakh, in an interview from Stepanakert with the Guardian. He estimated he had heard dozens or hundreds of explosions on Tuesday.
“They targeted both military objects and civilian objects,” he said. “They attacked along the entire contact line, not only near Stepanakert but in all the regions.”
Azerbaijan said it had launched the attacks in order to force Armenian-backed fighters from the region.
The previous war, which ended in a defeat for the de-facto Artsakh state backed by the government of Armenia, lasted 44 days. Azerbaijani forces seized the historically significant city of Shusha, which Armenians call Shushi.
Tuesday’s attacks come amid a growing crisis as a result of an effective blockade of the Lachin corridor by the Azerbaijani government and activists, leading to pronounced shortages of foodstuffs, medicine and other goods in the region.
Large parts of Stepanakert, the capital of the Armenian enclave, have been left without water or electricity.
The Armenian ministry of defence on Tuesday said that as of 2pm. the “situation on the borders of the Republic of #Armenia is relatively stable”.
Earlier on Tuesday, six Azerbaijani citizens were reportedly killed in the disputed region in two landmine explosions. The group included four soldiers and two civilians in a territory of Nagorno-Karabakh that was captured by Azerbaijan during the 2020 war.
Nagorno-Karabakh and some surrounding territories have been under ethnic Armenian control since the 1994 end of a separatist war, but Azerbaijan regained the territories and parts of Nagorno-Karabakh itself in 2020.
Locals fear that the resumption of hostilities by Azerbaijan could lead to a new campaign.
“We don’t have enough military strength in order to stop their offensive,” said Beglaryan. “US military intervention should happen in order to stop the genocide here. Otherwise, hundreds of thousands of people could die.”
#Azerbaijan #launches #antiterrorist #campaign #disputed #NagornoKarabakh #region #Azerbaijan