Destruction of Stepanakert

Ceasefire Does Not Hold as Karabakh, Armenia Come Under Attack


STEPANAKERT (Combined Sources) — A ceasefire agreed upon over the weekend at a meeting of the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Moscow with their Russian counterpart collapsed almost immediately. Azerbaijan started shelling the contact line immediately, killing civilians as well as soldiers.

A destroyed drone in Artsakh

A team of French, Russian and US mediators urged Armenia and Azerbaijan on October 13 to immediately stop hostilities in and around Nagorno-Karabakh in line with a ceasefire agreement brokered by Russia.

Bombs in Stepanakert

The diplomats co-heading the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group warned that continued fighting in the Karabakh conflict zone would be fraught with “catastrophic consequences for the region.”

“The Co-Chairs note with alarm the continuing violence in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” they said in a joint statement. “The Co-Chairs call on Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to take immediate steps to execute in full the obligations of the sides according to the October 10 Moscow statement, in order to prevent catastrophic consequences for the region.”

“The Co-Chairs reiterate that civilian casualties are unacceptable under any circumstances. The Co-Chairs call on the sides to implement the humanitarian ceasefire immediately to allow the return of remains, prisoners of war, and detainees, and appeal to the sides to agree urgently upon a ceasefire verification mechanism,” added the statement.

The mediators issued the statement shortly after meeting with Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan in Moscow.

Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan meets with the OSCE Co-Chairs

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According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Mnatsakanyan told them that Azerbaijani forces are “continuing large-scale hostilities” along the Karabakh “line of contact” in breach of the Moscow agreement. He too stressed the importance of putting in place a “verification mechanism.”

The ceasefire accord was the result of 10-hour talks between Mnatsakanyan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov mediated by their Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. In a joint statement, the three ministers also said that Yerevan and Baku are “launching substantive talks mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs to reach a peace deal as soon as possible.”

The co-chairs said on Tuesday that they are now “working with the sides on the substantive issues of the Nagorno-Karabakh political settlement process.” They did not give details.

Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov

Mnatsakanyan on October 12 lauded the talks with Lavrov held in Moscow as “constructive.”

Speaking at a joint news conference with the Russian official, Mnatsakanyan said they had discussed a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues.

Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan

“There is a high mutual understanding on all the issues on the agenda, which testifies to the high level of Armenian-Russian partnership,” he said, praising the fact that his official visit to Moscow planned earlier took place despite the problems in the region.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday added his voice to international calls for the warring sides in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to abide by an Armenian-Azerbaijani ceasefire agreement.

Unexploded bombs in Karabakh

“The United States calls on Azerbaijan and Armenia to implement their commitments to a ceasefire as agreed and cease targeting civilian areas, such as Ganja and Stepanakert,” tweeted Pompeo.

“We deplore the loss of human life and remain committed to a peaceful settlement,” he said.

The European Union urged the sides on Sunday “strictly abide by this agreement” and start “substantive” peace talks under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group co-headed by the United States, Russia and France.

An EU foreign policy spokesman also said all “external parties” should avoid “any actions that may lead to further casualties.”

Pompeo likewise said last week that “outsiders ought to stay out” of the Karabakh conflict. He did not explicitly point the finger at Turkey or other regional powers.

The defense ministers of Russia and Turkey discussed continuing hostilities in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone by phone on Monday.

The Holy Savior (Ghazanchetsots) Cathedral was targeted twice by Azerbaijani forces

Lavrov discussed those efforts with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Çavusoglu in a phone call on Sunday. He said he told Çavusoglu that Moscow expects Ankara to support the implementation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani agreement.

A senior advisor to Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan charged earlier in the day that the Turks are “pressuring” Azerbaijan to continue military operations in Karabakh and thus torpedo Russian mediation efforts.

Meeting with Yerevan-based foreign ambassadors on Monday, Pashinyan said that the Armenian side is committed to fully implementing the Moscow agreement.

The Holy Savior (Ghazanchetsots) Cathedral was targeted twice by Azerbaijani forces

The Azerbaijani forces again bombarded Stepanakert and Shushi in Artsakh, and the heavily damaged Holy Savior (Ghazanchetsots) Cathedral was again hit on October 8.

Artsakh Public Radio Director Ani Minasyan said air raid sirens in Stepanakert are activated non-stop amid the Azeri strikes on civilians.

“One after another, they are striking from the morning on. The air raid siren doesn’t stop. They bombarded minutes ago again,” Minasyan said.

Artsakh presidential foreign affairs advisor Davit Babayan said the Azeri forces delivered another strike on the Holy Savior (Ghazanchetsots) Cathedral in Shushi.

“They again targeted Ghazanchetsots. This entirely fits in their style, because this is genocidal policy and a cultural genocide, because targeting a church is nothing else than targeting the Armenian value system,” he said.

The Holy Savior (Ghazanchetsots) Cathedral was targeted twice by Azerbaijani forces

Ghazanchetsots is the seat of the Diocese of Artsakh of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The cathedral suffered the first Azerbaijani rocket strike earlier on October 8.

Russian journalists were injured as a result of the Azerbaijani bombardment of Holy Savior (Ghazanchetsots) Cathedral in the town of Shushi in Artsakh, according to RIA Novosti.

The Holy Savior (Ghazanchetsots) Cathedral was targeted twice by Azerbaijani forces

Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman, Artsrun Hovhannisyan, said that Azerbaijani forces are again shelling and attacking frontline positions of Karabakh’s Armenian-backed army. “Our troops are fighting heroically and hard,” he said in a Facebook post.

“Azerbaijan continues to blatantly violate the humanitarian ceasefire and has resumed large-scale military operations along the entire frontline since early morning,” a spokesman for Ara Harutyunyan, the Karabakh president, wrote around the same time.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also renewed its calls for a Karabakh ceasefire and reaffirmed its readiness to help the parties exchange prisoners of war and recover the bodies of their soldiers killed in action.

The Holy Savior (Ghazanchetsots) Cathedral

“The sides must agree on a format between themselves,” Martin Schuepp, the ICRC director for Eurasia, said in a statement. “We are in continuous discussions with them, passing proposals back and forth. Operational and logistical arrangements must be in place and the safety of our teams guaranteed for the operation to begin.”

The Russian-mediated agreement made clear that the process will be handled by the ICRC.

Armenian Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan discussed the matter with the head of the ICRC office in Yerevan on Saturday. Authorities in Karabakh said afterwards that they are ready to closely cooperate with Red Cross representatives as soon as the fighting stops.

Hovhannisyan said at a briefing hosted by the Armenian Unified Infocenter on October 12 Azerbaijani military launched offensives in several directions, using heavy artillery in the direction of Martakert. Throughout the day, the air force of Azerbaijan, with the support of the Turkish air force and command points and using combat UAVs, carried out 36 flights, during which the Artsakh forces managed to destroy one Su-25 fighter jet in the northern direction.

“The subversive-reconnaissance infiltration attempts in the direction of the town of Hadrut were thwarted and the enemy was pushed back. Hadrut is under the full control of our armed forces. As a rule, the combat actions continue until late at night. During the night the operations relatively decline, with the enemy regrouping its forces to resume the offensives in the morning,” he said.

Unexploded Mines

The mining specialists of the State Service of Emergency Situations of Artsakh continue the works to discover and neutralize the unexploded bombs and mines.

As Armenpress was informed from the State Service, only in Stepanakert they have already discovered 673 missiles, bombs and cluster explosives of Turkish and Israeli production.

By the instruction of the Head of the State Service Colonel Karen Sargsyan, the unexploded ammunition has been taken out of Stepanakert and neutralized in a safe zone.

High Death Toll

According to Armenian news sources, the Azerbaijani side suffered nearly 200 deaths on October 12, said representative of the Ministry of Defense Armenia Artsrun Hovhannisyan at a press conference.

‘‘During the last hours 3 UAVs, 1 warplane and 3 armored vehicles were destroyed. The manpower losses of Azerbaijan is nearly 200,” Hovhannisyan said.

Hovhannisyan mentioned that when publishing the losses of the Azerbaijani side, they mention only the number of destroyed equipment, while those captured from them undamaged are not listed.

So far Armenia has reported 525 military casualties. Azerbaijan keeps secret the number of casualties, but according to the Armenian side, Azerbaijan has suffered nearly 5000 casualties, including regular army servicemen and terrorists.

The prime ministers of Russia, Armenia and two other Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) member states discussed in Yerevan on Friday the coronavirus pandemic and its economic consequences for the Russian-led trade bloc at a meeting in Yerevan overshadowed by the war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

In his speeches delivered at the meeting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan mentioned the hostilities, calling them “Azerbaijani-Turkish aggression against the Armenian people.”

“I want to assure you that despite all the difficulties our people are more united than ever before and determined to hold out till the end and defend our freedom and independence,” Pashinyan told his Russian, Belarusian and Kazakh counterparts in his opening remarks.

“I want to specially thank all members of the [visiting] delegations for coming to Armenia in this difficult time,” he said. “We highly appreciate that.”

The regular session of the EEU’s Eurasian Intergovernmental Council went ahead even though fighting along the Karabakh “line of contact” spread last week to an Armenian region bordering Azerbaijan. The Armenian military claimed to have shot down seven Azerbaijani army drones in that region late on Thursday.

Two Russian journalists injured by Azerbaijani bombing of the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shushi will taken to Russia with the governmental delegation.

Archbishop Pargev Martirosyan in front of the Holy Savior (Ghazanchetsots) Cathedral of Shoushi

On October 8 the Azerbaijani forces bombed Ghazanchetsots Cathedral twice. One of the Russian reporters is critically injured. The Armenian Foreign Ministry has announced that the regular targeting of international reporters in Artsakh by Azerbaijan is aimed at preventing them from covering the war crimes committed by Azerbaijan. Earlier two French reporters had been injured. Azerbaijan has banned international reporters to cover the developments from the territory of Azerbaijan.

F-16 Planes

Planet Labs satellite images analyzed by the New York Times Visual Investigations team show at least two Turkish F-16 fighter jets at the Ganja International Airport in Azerbaijan, New York Times reporter, analyst Christiaan Triebert said on Twitter, sharing the photos.

The Armenian Defense Ministry said last week that an F-16 fighter shot down an Armenian SU-25 fighter jet, killing its pilot in Armenia’s airspace over the Vardenis region. However, Turkey denied the report.

According to Triebert, the fighter jets are likely operated by the Turkish Air Force, alongside a possible CN-235 cargo aircraft.

Kim Kardashian Raises Her Voice

Reality television star and criminal justice reform advocate Kim Kardashian West is pushing for President Trump to do more to support Armenia amid an outbreak of fierce fighting with its neighbor and decades-old adversary Azerbaijan.

The influential celebrity is broadcasting to her hundreds of millions of social media followers to demand Congress condemn Azerbaijan as the instigator of the recent fighting and denounce Turkey for interfering in the conflict.

Behind her efforts is the L.A.-based gastroenterologist, Emmy-nominated film producer and human rights advocate Eric Esrailian, who has been drafting statements for Kardashian West, her famous family members and other high-profile celebrities of Armenian descent calling for more support to Yerevan, the capital of Armenia.

“The situation currently with a lack of appropriate international attention is frustrating for a lot of people,” Esrailian, who was a producer on the 2017 film “The Promise,” about the Armenian genocide, said in an interview with The Hill.

“What I’ve done with my friends, like Kim Kardashian, her family, her siblings, and other friends like Cher, Serj Tankian, Alexis Ohanian, all of us — obviously they have a bigger platform than I do, but I have the ability to pull everybody together … and I feel honored that everybody cares and they basically say, ‘what can I do?’ “

(The Hill, RFE/RL, Armenpress and contributed to this report.)

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