Armenian soldier

Turkey, Azerbaijan Launch Concerted Attack on Artsakh, Armenia: Casualties Mounting on Both Sides

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YEREVAN (Combined Sources) — Armenia said on September 29 that a Turkish F-16 fighter jet entered its airspace from Azerbaijan and shot down an Armenian warplane during continuing hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Armenian Defense Ministry said the incident occurred during Azerbaijan air and artillery strikes on military and civilian targets in Armenia’s Gegharkunik province west of Karabakh.

Armenia’s Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan, left, meets with his Artsakh counterpart Jalal
Harutyunyan

According to the ministry spokeswoman, Shushan Stepanyan, Azerbaijan’s Su-25 warplanes and Turkish Bayraktar attack drones were engaged by Armenia air-defense units while carrying out the strikes in the morning.

Azerbaijani aviatory equipment forced to crash (photo nkrmil.am)

Stepanyan said that a Su-25 plane from the Armenian Air Force flew to the area to support those units only to be shot down by a Turkish F-16 jet. The plane’s pilot was killed as a result, she said in a statement, adding that the incident occurred in Armenia’s airspace, 60 kilometers from the Azerbaijani border.

“Turkey is carrying out a direct aggression against Armenia,” another Armenian military official, Artsrun Hovannisyan, wrote on Facebook.

Ankara denied downing the Armenian jet. Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry also dismissed the Armenian report.

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Turkey deployed several F-16s in Azerbaijan ahead of joint Azerbaijani-Turkish military exercises held in August. Subsequent news reports said they remained in Azerbaijan after the end of the drills.

Stepanyan said that multiple Turkish jets took off from an airfield in Gyanja, Azerbaijan’s second largest city located several dozen kilometers from northern Karabakh, to protect the Azerbaijani warplanes and drones during their raids on Armenia.

Armenia until now has refrained from formally requesting military aid from Russia or the Russian-led Collective Treaty Organization (CSTO), of which Armenia is a member.

The CSTO is a military alliance between Armenia, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgzystan and Tajikistan, its charter stipulates that member states are bound to protect one another if anyone of them gets attacked.

Asked by ArmenPress whether or not the organization has discussed the Azeri shelling of civilian settlements in the territory of the Republic of Armenia, CSTO spokesperson Vladimir Zaynetdinov said discussing the matter requires an official request from Armenia.

“In order for this issue to be discussed in the CSTO, it is necessary for Armenia to apply to the CSTO with a relevant request. The CSTO Secretariat hasn’t yet received such request,” he said.

War Launched on September 27

In the early hours of September 27, the Azerbaijani military launched a massive cross-border artillery attack on Artsakh, including on civilian settlements. Civilian settlements are still under bombardment, including the capital city of Stepanakert.

A total of 84 servicemen were killed and nearly 120 were wounded in Artsakh from the Azerbaijani attack (as of press time).

Armenia and Artsakh have both declared martial law and mobilization.

According to the latest data, Azerbaijan lost 790.

The Artsakh side has destroyed a total of 6 Azerbaijani attacking helicopters, 50 UAVs, 85 armored equipment including tanks, 82 vehicles and 1 aircraft.

Artsakh forces destroyed an Azerbaijani military unit

The situation has even brought together opposing forces in Armenia.

Former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan, who served as Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces in 2008, has headed to Artsakh to lend his support.

Gunners of the Artsakh Defense Army have destroyed attacking Azerbaijani tanks with mortars, Armenian Defense Ministry spokesperson Artsrun Hovhannisyan said on social media.

“Our gunners are virtuosos,” he said. “Destroying tanks with mortars, check.”

The Azerbaijani shelling of civilian settlements resulted in the deaths of four civilians so far in Artsakh.

An example of the results of the shelling of Stepanakert (MFA of Artsakh)

The Human Rights Defender of Artsakh Artak Beglaryan said the citizens were killed by Azerbaijani artillery and loitering munitions strikes.

Two women aged 59 and 79, one man aged 24, and one child aged 9 were killed in the attack, he said. The civilians were killed in Martuni, Hadrut and Martakert.

More than 30 other civilians, including women and children, are wounded.

child victim of the Azerbaijani attacks

Defense Ministry spokesperson Shushan Stepanyan said Azerbaijan is firing the TOS-1A heavy artillery system in some directions.

“The deployment of TOS, Smerch and other large caliber systems changes the scale and logic of the military operations, elevating it to a new level,” she said, warning that the Armenian military is forced to deploy heavy weapons systems that inflict greater destruction.

“At this moment the Defense Army units are decisively repelling all enemy offensive attempts, inflicting heavy losses to manpower and equipment,” Stepanyan said.

Vardenis Attack

Human Rights Defender of Armenia Arman Tatoyan issued a statement over the Azerbaijani shelling on the villages in Armenia’s Vardenis town, Gegharkunik province.

“From early morning the villages of Vardenis of Armenia’s Gegharkunik province are being shelled by the Azerbaijani side. The data of this moment show that the civilian population is under obvious targeted shelling.

A civilian has been killed, which has been confirmed by the official sources, urgent inquiries of the Human Rights Defender.

A bus in Vardenis, Armenia, struck by an Azerbaijani drone

The Azerbaijani military bombarded military and civilian infrastructures, including the targeted strikes on civilian population in the Armenian town of Vardenis which resulted in one civilian being killed, the Armenian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Preplanned Attack

Foreign Minister of Armenia Zohrab Mnatsakanyan sent a letter on September 28 to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, presenting the large-scale aggression unleashed by Azerbaijani against Artsakh, as well as the current situation caused by it, the Armenian foreign ministry told Armenpress.

In his letter the Armenian FM provided information about the cases of deliberate targeting of Artsakh’s civilian population and infrastructures by the Azerbaijani armed forces, their provocative actions with the use of various caliber weapons.

Touching upon the disinformation flows spread by the Azerbaijani side, the Armenian FM noted in particular: “The aggression has been pre-planned, and the statements of the Azerbaijani side about the alleged counterattack are absolute lie. Azerbaijan has never hidden its strategic goal of solving the Nagorno Karabakh conflict with the use of force, by constantly keeping the tension along the line of contact and the Armenian-Azerbaijani state border”.

The Armenian FM expressed his deep concern over Turkey’s unconditional unilateral support to Azerbaijan and its aggression. Strongly condemning the Azerbaijani aggression, minister Mnatsakanyan stated that the provocative actions aimed at violating the ceasefire are not only gross violations of the international humanitarian law, but are also fraught with the danger of turning into a large-scale regional war.

Mnatsakanyan criticized Azerbaijan’s provocative behavior on not following the UN Secretary-General’s call for global ceasefire. He stated that the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan bears the full responsibility of the consequences of aggression.

The FM said as guarantor of the security of the Artsakh people Armenia will take all necessary measures to protect the inalienable rights of the Artsakh people and will provide an adequate response to the Azerbaijani aggression.

Nagorno Karabakh people’s right to self-determination is an inseparable part of the conflict settlement, and with the power of this right the people of Artsakh should have an opportunity to determine their status without any restrictions.

The Foreign Minister reaffirmed Armenia’s commitment to the exclusively peaceful settlement of the conflict.

The letter will be circulated as a document of the UN General Assembly’s 75th session and as a document of the Security Council.

Prime Minister Pashinyan has called on volunteers to fight.

The Armenian Defense Ministry said that thousands of people across Armenia have already volunteered to fight in Karabakh. It said Karabakh Armenian forces do not need such assistance yet.

“The dictatorial regime of Ilham Aliyev has once again resorted to hostilities,” Pashinyan said in a televised address to the nation later in the day. “It’s a war against the Armenian people. It’s a war against our independence, freedom and dignity.”

“The Armenian people are ready for that war because they have always been conscious of the fact that the Armenophobia and hatred with which the Azerbaijani dictatorship has for decades been feeding its people could not lead to any outcome other than war,” he said.

Pashinyan also blamed Turkey and its “aggressive behavior for the outbreak of hostilities. “I call on the international community to use all its levers to keep Turkey from any possible intervention which would further destabilize the situation in the region,” he added.

Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan issued, meanwhile, a written appeal to the nation accusing Azerbaijan of launching a large-scale offensive along the “line of contact” around Karabakh and saying that Baku will be “strictly punished” for that.

“As a guarantor of the security of Artsakh (Karabakh), the armed forces of the Republic of Armenia are prepared to provide any assistance to ensure the security of Artsakh’s population,” said Tonoyan.

“This adventure will have severe consequences for the enemy,” he added. “Our response will be tougher than ever before.”

The Azerbaijani military claimed to have launched a “counteroffensive operation” in Karabakh in response to what it called Armenian shelling of Azerbaijani villages. The Armenian side dismissed the claim.

Pashinyan Speech

In a heartfelt speech, Pashinyan said, “I want to express my pride in the situation we have today. I would like to touch upon only one nuance when it comes to living for the sake of the homeland, dying for the sake of the homeland. We do not die, we are not ready to die for death, we are ready to die for life, for living, because there is no need to die for death. There is no need to take any initiative there. Our enemies can do it themselves. Here is what we have to do, this is what we have to say. This is very important.

“We must understand that we are dealing with a very deeply prepared attack. It’s not a one-off attack, it’s very powerful. We all need to understand. We need to know that we do have casualties, and the adversary has many more casualties. We have equipment losses, the opponent has equipment losses, much more. And this is an evolving situation, we must stand firm.

He added, “I salute all the organizations and individuals of the Diaspora who work with the same intensity as us to solve this problem. Many issues need to be addressed here. And I am glad that the Parliament of the Republic of Armenia is unanimous in this mood, this will, this process.”

“It is impossible to defeat us. It is impossible to defeat us, because the victory, the victory of the Artsakh war, which went through defeats, which went through losses, but which in the end was crowned as a victory, that victory flows in our veins, that victory is in our consciousness. That victory is our backbone, that victory is our identity. That is why it is impossible to defeat us.”

And he conclude, “Long live the Armenian Army, Long live Artsakh, Long live Armenia! Long live the victory that we will build together, every minute, every second, shoulder to shoulder, mind to mind.”

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s wife Anna Hakobyan, right, visits with a family in a bunker.

World Alarmed

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin shortly after the report.

The Kremlin said Putin expressed “serious concern at the continuing hostilities” in the conflict zone and stressed the “urgent need” to halt them and take “measures to de-escalate the crisis.”

Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov noted that Russia is in constant touch with Yerevan, Baku and Ankara and urged Turkey to do everything to convince the conflicting sides to cease the fire.

“We call on all countries, especially our partners, such as Turkey, to do everything so that the conflicting sides will cease the fire and return to the peaceful settlement process of the conflict”, Peskov said.

He added that they are also in touch with their partners of the OSCE Minsk Group, adding that the Co-Chair countries should take a responsible position for solving the situation in Nagorno Karabakh.

The United States on Sunday called for an immediate halt to deadly hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh and warned “external parties” against participating in them.

“The United States condemns in the strongest terms this escalation of violence,” Morgan Ortagus, the spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, said in a statement.

She said U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun phoned Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s foreign ministers “to urge both sides to cease hostilities immediately, to use the existing direct communication links between them to avoid further escalation, and to avoid unhelpful rhetoric and actions that further raise tensions on the ground.”

“The United States believes participation in the escalating violence by external parties would be deeply unhelpful and only exacerbate regional tensions,” added Ortagus.

It was not clear if she referred to Turkey, which has stepped up diplomatic and military support for Azerbaijan in recent months.

Ortagus also urged Baku and Yerevan to “return to substantive negotiations as soon as possible.” “As a Co-Chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, the United States remains committed to helping the sides achieve a peaceful and sustainable settlement to the conflict,” she said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to cease hostilities, Reuters reports.

Pompeo said during a visit to Crete that he had discussed the clashes in talks earlier with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias.

“The foreign minister and I addressed the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh where both sides need to stop the violence and work with the Minsk Group co-chairs and return to substantive negotiations as quickly as possible,” he said.

U.S. President Donald Trump said later on Sunday that Washington is closely monitoring the developments in the Karabakh conflict zone.

“We have a lot of good relationships in that area,” Trump told reporters. “We’ll see if we can stop [the hostilities.]”

The two other Minsk Group co-chairs, Russia and France, also voiced concern at the most large-scale fighting in the Karabakh conflict zone in years. Similar statements were issued by the European Union.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke with his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts by phone earlier on Sunday.

Pashinyan had a telephone conversation with French President Emanuel Macron.

He expressed deep concern over the current situation and its further aggravation. In particular, it was stressed that Azerbaijan is resorting to provocations to launch military operations in the direction of the state border with the Republic of Armenia. He stressed the need for a strong biased-aggressive stance of Turkey to stop the possible intervention of that country.

President Macron expressed deep concern over the current situation and said that further escalation of tensions was unacceptable. He considered it necessary to take all measures to stop the hostilities and defuse the tension. He stressed the need to intensify the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs to restore peace in the region.

France said it would call for talks among the ‘Minsk Group’ – which is led by Russia, France and the United States and mediates between Armenia and Azerbaijan – to try to resolve an escalating conflict between the two South Caucasus countries, Reuters reports.

“We will trigger in the coming days a co-ordination of the Minsk Group to clear up what happened, who is responsible and find a way out,” an official at Macron’s office told Reuters.

Pashinyan had a telephone conversation with the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin.

Prime Minister Pashinyan spoke in detail about the situation on the line of contact between the Karabakh and Azerbaijani armed forces. Nikol Pashinyan expressed deep concern over the hostilities unleashed by Azerbaijan, which are aggression against Nagorno Karabakh. He considered inadmissible the further development of escalation, the involvement of extra-regional forces in it.

Vladimir Putin has expressed deep concern over large-scale hostilities. The Russian President stressed the need to make the necessary efforts to prevent further escalation of the conflict and the cessation of hostilities.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urges to immediately end the fighting in the Artsakh-Azerbaijan line of contact.

“I am concerned about the resumption of hostilities along the line of contact in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict zone and urge an immediate end to the fighting. I am deeply disturbed by the reported loss of civilian lives and injuries, as well as damage to civilian property and infrastructure.

I call on all sides to respect international human rights law and international humanitarian law, in particular by ensuring the protection of the civilian population and people placed hors de combat, and by preventing damage to essential civilian infrastructure”, the statement said.

Pope Francis has prayed for peace in the Caucasus region as fighting erupted anew Sunday between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia said a woman and a child were killed in the area by shelling from Azerbaijani forces and Azerbaijan’s president said his military has suffered losses.

Francis said during his Sunday Angelus address that he was praying for peace between the two countries, urging them to them to “accomplish concrete deeds of goodwill and fraternity” to reach a peaceful solution through dialogue.

(Azatutyn, Armenpress and the official governments of Armenia and Artsakh contributed to this report.)

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