Renewed Conflict Between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh Enters Second Day

by Michael Nguyen
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Nagorno-Karabakh Ceasefire

Early Wednesday saw continued explosions in various locations of Nagorno-Karabakh, following a day of heavy artillery assault by Azerbaijani forces on Armenian military installations. Local authorities reported that this artillery barrage resulted in a significant number of casualties, both killed and wounded.

The government of Azerbaijan has termed the artillery strikes as an “anti-terrorist operation,” stating that the operation will persist until the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh government dissolves itself and “unlawful Armenian military groups” capitulate. Although Azerbaijan asserts that its military actions are focused solely on military objectives, considerable damage was evident in Stepanakert, the regional capital. Commercial storefronts were shattered, and vehicles appeared to be damaged by shrapnel.

Throughout Wednesday morning, periodic blasts were heard around Stepanakert, some emanating from a distance while others seemed alarmingly close to the city center.

This escalation in artillery fire has generated widespread apprehensions of a resurgence of full-scale warfare between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The two nations have been embroiled in conflict over the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh region for over 30 years, with the most recent episode of intense fighting lasting six weeks in 2020.

After announcing the loss of four soldiers and two civilians due to land mine explosions in Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry commenced its military operations. Although specifics were not provided, the ministry claimed that Armenian military assets and front-line positions were being “neutralized through high-precision weaponry,” with a focus solely on legitimate military targets.

Armenia’s Foreign Ministry refuted allegations that its military was active in Nagorno-Karabakh, dismissing reports of sabotage and land mines as “falsehoods.” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan accused Azerbaijan of attempting to provoke Armenia into military action.

Ethnic Armenian authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh issued a statement indicating that Stepanakert and neighboring villages were “under severe bombardment.” The regional military reported the use of aircraft, artillery, missile systems, and drones by Azerbaijani forces.

Civilians in Stepanakert took refuge in basements and bomb shelters as electricity was disrupted. Ongoing conflict also hindered the distribution of limited humanitarian aid delivered on Monday, and food shortages continue to plague the area.

Human rights ombudsman for Nagorno-Karabakh, Geghan Stepanyan, announced on Tuesday that the conflict has resulted in 27 deaths, including two civilians, and over 200 wounded. Among the casualties were children.

The Prosecutor General’s Office in Azerbaijan reported that Armenian forces had attacked the city of Shusha in Nagorno-Karabakh, currently under Azerbaijani control, with heavy artillery, resulting in civilian casualties.

The veracity of these claims could not be independently confirmed.

Following a separatist war that ended in 1994, Nagorno-Karabakh and its adjacent territories were controlled by ethnic Armenians. However, Azerbaijan regained control over these areas and parts of Nagorno-Karabakh after intense fighting in 2020. An armistice led to the placement of Russian peacekeepers in the region. Despite this, Azerbaijan accuses Armenia of covertly supplying weapons, prompting a blockade that has led to shortages of food and medicine.

In Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, thousands of protesters assembled on Tuesday, blocking roads and urging the government to protect Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. Confrontations with the police led to injuries among both law enforcement and civilians, according to Armenia’s Health Ministry.

Contributions to this report were made by Jim Heintz in Tallinn, Estonia; Aida Sultanova in London; and Siranush Sargsyan in Stepanakert.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

What is the current situation in Nagorno-Karabakh?

Heavy artillery fire and explosions have resumed between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. The Azerbaijani government has termed their military actions as “anti-terrorist operations,” while the Armenian government denies military involvement in the region.

Who has suffered casualties in the renewed conflict?

Local authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh have reported a significant number of casualties, both killed and wounded, due to the artillery fire. Human rights ombudsman Geghan Stepanyan announced that 27 people, including two civilians, have died and more than 200 others have been injured.

What is Azerbaijan’s stance on the conflict?

Azerbaijan has labeled its artillery strikes as an “anti-terrorist operation,” stating that it will continue until the separatist government in Nagorno-Karabakh dissolves and “illegal Armenian military formations” surrender.

What is Armenia’s response to the conflict?

Armenia’s Foreign Ministry denies any Armenian military involvement in Nagorno-Karabakh and refutes allegations of sabotage and land mines. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has accused Azerbaijan of trying to provoke Armenia into military action.

What impact is the conflict having on civilians?

Residents of Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, have moved to basements and bomb shelters as the conflict has led to disruptions in electricity and food shortages. Humanitarian aid has also been hindered due to ongoing hostilities.

Have international peacekeepers been involved?

Russian peacekeepers were stationed in Nagorno-Karabakh after intense fighting in 2020 led to an armistice. However, it is unclear what role they are currently playing in the renewed conflict.

Is there any independent verification of the claims made by both sides?

As of now, the claims regarding casualties, military actions, and other aspects of the conflict made by Azerbaijan and Armenia could not be independently verified.

What are the global implications of this renewed conflict?

The escalation in artillery fire and hostilities has generated widespread apprehensions about the possibility of a full-scale war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which would have far-reaching implications on regional stability and international relations.

What led to the renewed hostilities?

Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry commenced its military operations following the loss of four soldiers and two civilians due to land mine explosions in Nagorno-Karabakh. However, the root causes are deeply embedded in a long-standing territorial dispute.

What are the protesters in Armenia demanding?

Thousands have gathered in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, to demand that the government take steps to protect Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. Some confrontations with the police have resulted in injuries among both law enforcement and civilians.

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