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Azerbaijan Launches Assaults across Armenian Border
Armenian Human Rights Defender Kristinne Grigoryan cited credible evidence that Azerbaijan had targeted civilian infrastructure, including private homes, vehicles and even marked ambulances in settlements near the border area throughout the night. At least three civilians are reported to have suffered injuries. According to the Ministry of Defense, 49 Armenian service members have been confirmed killed in action since hostilities began on Tuesday morning, but this number is expected to rise as fighting continues along the line of contact. Azerbaijan has officially announced 50 KIA, though open source investigations have revealed dozens more.
Armenian sources also claimed that Azeri forces had launched a number of ground assaults on fortified Armenian positions along the line of contact, though it remains unclear if any success was recorded. The Armenian Army published a video showing a large formation of what appear to be Azerbaijani special forces attempting to cross open country unsupported by armor before being gunned down by fire coming from Armenian lines. However, Azerbaijani telegram channels also published footage of dead and wounded Armenians soldiers suggesting that Azeri forces did reach some positions. Armenian officials have avoided commenting on any territorial changes as combat operations are ongoing, but when asked, an MP from the governing Civil Contract party, Gurgen Arsenyan did acknowledge that positions had changed hands, without elaborating.
Tatul Hakobyan, a well-respected journalist reporting from Sotk, in Armenia’s Gegharkunik province said that artillery duels and exchanges of fire were ongoing in the region but that the “Armenian army is holding its ground”. He also urged followers to rally around the Army as it fulfilled its duty. However, Gegharkunik governor Karen Sargsyan was quoted in saying that at least 43 service members had been wounded in his province alone, which seems to have taken the brunt of the fighting throughout the day.
The Azerbaijani Government claims that Tuesday’s attack was a ‘punitive action’ against what it claims were violations of the ceasefire agreement by Armenian forces allegedly placing mines in the occupied Karvajar units. However, the Azeri MOD has not put forward any evidence of this. Analysts have warned over the previous week that Azerbaijan was ramping up for an escalation of the conflict following repeated––and virtually identical––claims that Armenia had fired on Azeri positions over the last week, which were also presented without evidence.
Analyst Laurence Broers, who specialises on conflict and security in the Caucasus surmised that Aliyev felt emboldened by Russia’s distraction in Ukraine and its new-found status as an energy partner for Europe to turn outright assault on Armenian territory into a negotiation tactic in the hopes of extracting maximalist gains and force Armenia to sign a peace agreement on Azerbaijan’s terms. “Even if outside powers, most likely Moscow, broker a ceasefire,” the analyst warned, “such escalations will likely continue as part of a coercive bargaining dynamic, and per latest reports, over a wider area.
“Not all countries are ready to sell defensive weapons to Armenia. There are countries that are ready to sell arms,” the Prime Minister announced during a speech to Parliament on Tuesday, “ but there are countries that aren’t ready for the fact that Armenia will buy weapons from the countries that are ready to sell weapons” prompting some analysts to interpret that Russia may have obstructed Armenian arms purchases from 3rd parties.
Pashinyan also divulged that during negotiations, Azerbaijan had demanded that Armenia recognize Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan with no preconditions whatsoever regarding the safety of the indigenous population, as well as large swaths of Armenia-proper. Pashinyan reiterated that Armenia would not cede any corridor to Azerbaijan. This latest escalation took place less than two weeks after the two leaders met with EU President Charles Michel in Brussels, which the Europeans hailed as having “made progress”.
Michel was among several international leaders to express “concern” over what he called “ fighting on the Armenia–Azerbaijan border”, adding that there is no alternative to peace and stability. Members of the European Parliament took more forceful action, however. Francois-Xavier Bellamy, a French member of the European Parliament, strongly condemned what he called “Azerbaijan’s criminal aggression against Armenia” during a parliamentary session, saying that it was a matter of European security, and that of the Armenian people. The European Parliament discussed sanctioning Azerbaijan for this aggression. France, which chairs the UN Security Council also promised to add this invasion to the Council’s agenda.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was also unusually blunt in his statement on Tuesday. Following calls with both Pashinyan and Aliyev, he announced that he called on Aliyev to cease bombing Armenia and for an immediate cessation of hostilities. India’s Ministry of External Affairs also condemned the attack, calling on the “Aggressor” to immediately cease hostilities.
According to the Armenian MOD, fighting across the border seems to have greatly subsided in the afternoon. The Armenian military has yet to fully ascertain losses of lives and equipment. This latest round of fighting, the bloodiest in two years, comes less than two weeks before the two-year anniversary of the 2020 44-Day War.