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Nagorno-Karabakh under attack Azerbaijan launches military assault on majority-Armenian region
- At 1:00 pm local time on Wednesday afternoon, the authorities of the unrecognized Artsakh Republic in Nagorno-Karabakh announced that a ceasefire agreement had been reached.
- On Tuesday afternoon, Azerbaijan announced the start of “anti-terrorist measures” in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, the home of the unrecognized Republic of Artsakh. This disputed enclave is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but is primarily inhabited by Armenians.
- Armenia’s Defense Ministry declared Azerbaijan’s attack on Nagorno-Karabakh “large-scale aggression.” Yerevan has called on the U.N. Security Council and Russian peacekeeping forces to take measures to end Baku’s hostilities.
- Sources on the ground in Nagorno-Karabakh report that Azerbaijani troops are “deliberately firing on villages” in the region. According to unconfirmed reports, residents have been injured.
- The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said that a full withdrawal of Armenian troops from Karabakh is the only way peace will be reached. According to Armenia’s Defense Ministry, there are no Armenian military formations in Nagorno-Karabakh.
- Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said that Russia is “concerned by the sharp escalation of the situation” in Nagorno-Karabakh and that Moscow calls for Azerbaijan and Armenia to cease hostilities and find a diplomatic solution.
Ceasefire reached in Nagorno-Karabakh after Azerbaijani military offensive leaves dozens dead
The separatist authorities of the unrecognized Artsakh Republic in Nagorno-Karabakh have announced that a ceasefire agreement has been reached as of 1:00 p.m. local time (10:00 a.m. London, 5:00 a.m. New York), according to Russian state media.
As part of the agreement, all remaining Armenian troops will be withdrawn “from the deployment zone of the Russian peacekeeping contingent” in Nagorno-Karabakh. Additionally, the armed units of the Artsakh Republic will be disbanded and its heavy equipment withdrawn.
The unrecognized republic also said that the agreement was reached “with the mediation of the Russian peacekeeping contingent stationed in Nagorno-Karabakh.”
A meeting between members of the disputed region’s Armenian population and Azerbaijani government representatives has been scheduled for September 21 in the city of Yevlakh. The two sides reportedly plan to discuss “issues raised by the Azerbaijani side regarding the reintegration [of Nagorno-Karabakh] as well as issues concerning the livelihood of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh within the framework of the Constitution of Azerbaijan.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Gegham Stepanyan, the Republic of Artsakh’s human rights ombudsman, reported that 32 people were killed and more than 200 were injured in Nagorno-Karabakh during Azerbaijan’s attack. Of those victims, he said, seven civilians were killed and 35 civilians were injured.
Folks, we’re bringing our live blog coverage of Azerbaijan’s military offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh to an end. The assault itself, however, is still ongoing, so be sure to keep an eye on our site for new updates. In the meantime, here are some of Meduza’s more in-depth stories about the disputed South Caucasus region:
Latest updates as of 10:00 p.m. local time (7:00 p.m. London, 2:00 p.m. New York)
- Police have begun using stun grenades against protesters in central Yerevan.
- Twenty-five people have been killed by shelling in Nagorno-Karabakh, including two civilians, according to the human rights ombudsman of the unrecognized Republic of Artsakh.
- Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry reported that its “local anti-terrorist measures are continuing successfully.” According to the agency, Azerbaijani forces have taken control of more than 60 combat posts.
- In its first statement since the start of Azerbaijan’s assault, the Russian Defense Ministry reported that “the Russian peacekeeping contingent has recorded numerous ceasefire violation incidents from the Azerbaijani side along the entire line of contact.”
- Members of the European Parliament have called on the European Council to consider imposing sanctions against Azerbaijan for its attack in Nagorno-Karabakh.
- The U.S. government calls for an “immediate end to hostilities and for direct dialogue,” according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Twenty-five people have been killed by shelling in Nagorno-Karabakh, including two civilians, according to Gegham Stepanyan, the human rights ombudsman of the unrecognized Republic of Artsakh.
He also said that the lack of fuel and means of communication have made it difficult to transport wounded people to Stepanakert for medical treatment.
Nagorno-Karabakh’s human rights ombudsman reports that a village of about 150 residents has come under direct fire and is surrounded by Azerbaijani forces.
Protesters in Yerevan
Police have reportedly begun using stun grenades against demonstrators in central Yerevan.
The Russian Defense Ministry commented for the first time on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh:
The ministry noted that the peacekeepers continue “round-the-clock monitoring of the situation and control of ceasefire compliance.”
Since 12:00 a.m. on September 19, 2023, the Russian peacekeeping contingent has recorded numerous ceasefire violation incidents from the Azerbaijani side along the entire line of contact.
Russian peacekeepers organized the evacuation of the Nagorno-Karabakh civilian population from the most dangerous areas, as well as the provision of medical assistance to injured citizens.
Throughout the day, 469 people, including 185 children, were evacuated to the Russian peacekeeping contingent’s location. Medical Unit workers assisted nine wounded citizens, including four children.
The Russian Defense Ministry called on the parties to hold a ceasefire and resume negotiations.
Protesters in Yerevan have blocked the exits of the Russian Embassy, Russian state media has reported, citing a source from the mission.
“The embassy building has been blocked. A large number of demonstrators are in front of the main entrance at the front of the building. The back entrance is also blocked, but it’s unclear how many people are there,” said the source.
Russian state media is reporting that skirmishes have broken out between protesters and police outside of the Russian Embassy in Yerevan.
Members of the European Parliament have called on the European Council to consider imposing sanctions against Azerbaijani authorities for military actions in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Why don’t Russia’s peacekeepers intervene?
BBC News Russian noted on Telegram that Russian peacekeeping forces have been stationed in Nagorno-Karabakh since November 2020, when Putin, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan signed the ceasefire agreement that ended the Second Karabakh War.
The agreement holds that a Russian peacekeeping contingent will be deployed in the region “to supervise the ceasefire.” But despite the fact that Azerbaijani forces have begun firing on the disputed enclave, the BBC observed, Russia’s peacekeepers haven’t stepped in.
Russian State Duma Defense Committee head Andrey Kartapolov told journalists that Russia’s peacekeepers don’t have the right to use weapons as long as they aren’t in danger themselves, a policy that would seem to undermine their ability to serve their purported purpose in the region.
In February 2023, after filing an official request, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Armenian service obtained a copy of the official document on whose basis Russia’s peacekeeping forces are currently in Nagorno-Karabakh. According to the document, Russian peacekeepers have the right to use force “in the event of a threat to the lives and health of the civilian population.” The problem, according to the BBC, is that the agreement, which Pashinyan maintains is an official continuation of the original trilateral ceasefire, was not signed by Azerbaijan.
What’s more, according to the BBC, Russia’s peacekeeping forces do not have a mandate from the U.N. to “impose peace” by using force (though Russia’ Foreign Ministry has argued in the past that Moscow does not need such a mandate).
Artsakh's Defense Ministry reports that fighting continues “along the entire line of contact.”
“The Azerbaijani Armed Forces are using artillery and rockets, attack drones and combat aircraft,” the ministry claimed.
Five people in Nagorno-Karabakh are reported dead.
According Artsakh's Ministry of Health, another 80 were wounded and have been taken to the republic’s medical center. Fifteen of the wounded are civilians.
Serj Tankian, the leader of the band System of a Down who has Armenian ancestry, spoke out in support of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh in an Instagram story.
“Azerbaijan is trying to ethnically cleanse Artsakh. There are multiple fatalities and dozens of injuries including children due to Azerbaijan’s aerial attacks and military incursion,” wrote the rock musician.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh:
- The Kremlin is concerned by the sharp escalation in the region. The most important thing at the moment is persuading Yerevan and Baku to abandon use of force.
- Russia is currently in contact with Armenia and Azerbaijan through military channels, but communications at a higher level are possible.
- Moscow calls on Yerevan and Baku to adhere to the previously-signed trilateral agreement while taking into account new realities — specifically Armenia’s recognition of Azerbaijan’s territory as of 1991.
- The Kremlin does not confirm that Azerbaijan warned Russia in advance of its plans to start hostilities.
Baku responds to Stepanakert’s negotiations proposal
In an official statement, the Azerbaijani presidential administration said that authorities were ready to meet “with representatives of the Armenian population living in the Karabakh region of our country.”
However, Baku stressed that it would not stop hostilities in Karabakh until the government of the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh Republic was dissolved.
“To stop the anti-terrorist measures, the illegal Armenian armed formations must lay down their arms and the illegal regime must be dissolved,” the Azerbaijani presidential administration said.
Otherwise, the “anti-terrorist measures” will be “continued to the end.”
The aftermath of shelling in Stepanakert
Protesters outside the parliament building in Yerevan
Nikol Pashinyan discusses situation in Nagorno-Karabakh with French President Emmanuel Macron
The Armenian government reports that they emphasized the inadmissibility of the use of force and the need to use international de-escalation mechanisms.
Macron also told Pashinyan that, “in connection with the current situation, France will initiate an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.”
Azerbaijan reports first casualty
The Azerbaijani Prosecutor General’s Office stated that a Shusha resident, born in 1967, was killed by shelling from Nagorno-Karabakh.
Latest updates as of 6:00 p.m. local time (3:00 p.m. London, 10:00 a.m. New York)
- 23 people have been injured by shelling in Nagorno-Karabakh, according to the ombudsman of the separatist Artsakh Republic. At least one person has reportedly died.
- U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is reportedly planning to hold talks with “all sides” to end the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh.
- Protesters have gathered outside the Russian Embassy in Yerevan to demand that Moscow intervene in Nagorno-Karabakh. Meanwhile, the head of the Russian State Duma’s Defense Committee said that Russian peacekeepers in the region “don’t have the right to use weapons” as long as they’re not under threat.
- E.U. High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell has called on Azerbaijan to cease its military activities immediately and condemned the escalation.
- Separatist authorities in the unrecognized Artsakh Republic have appealed to Azerbaijan to stop firing and come to the negotiating table.
More photos from the center of Yerevan
The Artsakh Defense Forces report that the intensity of shelling along the front line has now “significantly decreased.”
Protesters in the center of Yerevan, Armenia
Separatist authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh call on Baku to negotiate
“The Karabakh side appeals to the Azerbaijani side with a proposal to immediately stop firing and to come to the negotiating table with the aim of resolving the situation,” Stepanakert said in a statement.
The number of wounded in the shelling of Nagorno-Karabakh has increased to 23 people, according to Gegham Stepanyan, ombudsman of the separatist republic.
Andrey Kartapolov, the head of the Russian State Duma’s Defense Committee, told journalists that “as long as Russian peacekeeping forces themselves are not under threat, they don’t have the right to use weapons” in Nagorno-Karabakh.
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