Voskan Sargsyan and a view of Tavush

A Week of Azerbaijani Aggression

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YEREVAN — Last week saw an escalating set of Azerbaijani military attacks on Armenia. Below are interviews with local authorities, including political leaders, local villagers and journalists in Armenia.  

November 14

At the start of the week, news of Azerbaijani advances in the border areas of Syunik and Vayots Dzor and the loss of Armenian positions spread. On November 14, an intensive exchange of gunfire took place in the eastern direction along the line of contact between the two countries. At 1 p.m., Azerbaijani soldiers with armored equipment advanced, but the Armenian government only announced this officially the next day, confirming that four military positions had been besieged, but Azerbaijani military equipment and troops left Armenian territory as a result of negotiations. Armenian troops also left the four military positions. That same day, November 15, Armenian Defense Minister Arshak Karapetyan was dismissed and replaced by Suren Papikyan. 

November 15

Azerbaijan placed checkpoints on the Kapan-Chakaten automobile route in Syunik province at the start of November 15 (midnight), making travel on this road practically impossible. It should be noted that earlier, on November 12, customs posts had been placed on various segments of the Goris-Kapan road. The Armenian National Security Service announced that an alternate route would be ready for use by the end of the year. As a result of the Azerbaijani checkpoints, the fundamental rights of the inhabitants of Chakaten, Srashen, Shikahogh, Nerkin Hand, Tsav and Shishkert have been curtailed. 

November 16

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On November 16, at around 1 p.m., Azerbaijani troops fired on Armenian positions in the eastern direction of the line of contract. An extensive attack began, using artillery, armored vehicles, and large caliber firearms. Intensive fighting followed for several hours, until finally Russian intervention led to a ceasefire agreement starting at 6:30 p.m. on the eastern border of Armenia, stabilizing the situation. 

November 17

On November 17 Azerbaijani troops began shooting irregularly in the evening on certain villages of Tavush, but the Armenian military response led to a halt in their firing. 

Voskan Sargsyan, a journalist in Tavush, reported that people of all political persuasions were seriously concerned with the situation at this time. He said, “The inhabitants of Tavush Province are ready to resist with weapons the surrender of land. Many residents of Tavush Province declared decisively while speaking with me that they were against the surrender of territory in the province to Azerbaijan. These people are not involved in politics. They are not part of the opposition. They simply are against the surrender of what used to be enclaves [in Tavush now] formerly inhabited by Azerbaijanis [in the Soviet period]. Some freedom fighters, who fought in the 1992-1994 period, declared that they are ready to even carry out an armed struggle against the surrender of land. In one of the villages near the border, a young mother with four children declared that she was ready in the future to organize a meeting of young mothers opposed to the surrender of territory to Azerbaijan. A young student of Tavush said that he was ready to join any initiative against the surrender of land.” Sargsyan concluded, “The standing of [Prime Minister] Nikol Pashinyan in Tavush Province is melting away daily.” 

Imperiled Syunik, Gegharkunik

The most difficult situation at the moment is that of Syunik, where the Azerbaijanis are openly breaking the ceasefire agreement almost every day. They have assembled numerous troops and military equipment in this area, in occupied parts of Artsakh and in Nakhichevan. It should be noted that a good part of this equipment is from Turkey, a NATO member.  

Haygazun Alvrtsyan

Haykazun Alvrtsyan, director of the Center for the Study of Western Armenian Issues, expressed great concern about the situation, declaring that the war is not behind the mountains. He said, “Turkish and Azerbaijani troops and military equipment are being concentrated in the Syunik area, and similarly in Nakhichevan. The breath of a new and large-scale war is being felt everywhere.”

Armenian National Assembly deputy Tigran Abrahamyan of the I Have Honor [Pativ Unem] party spoke about the clear Turkish intervention: “When I said that ‘positive signals’ cannot be received from Turkey, as Pashinyan was insisting, various individuals representing the authorities made meaningless efforts at persuasion that the Turks have changed [and] that it is already worth normalizing relations.” 

Tigran Abrahamyan

It should also be noted that the blockade in practice of six villages of Syunik, created by the implementation of Azerbaijani checkpoints, continues at this point in time. The situation in Gegharkunik Province also remains tense, with Azerbaijani troops assembled nearby. Those troops just the other day fired on a vehicle transporting bread which belonged to the Armenian army, and thus broke the rules of the ceasefire. 

Local sources report that morale among the inhabitants is high, and they are even ready to fight with the enemy, though they need a great deal of state assistance. Despite the tension, at the moment, in the Vardenis region, active pre-election campaigns of local self-government bodies are taking place. 

Meanwhile, on November 22, Azerbaijan at 6:10 p.m. targeted Norabak village of the Vardenis region, and Armenian military positions defending it. Community head Hakob Avetyan declared that as a result of the exchange of fire, one Armenian was killed and others wounded. He said, “I cannot give an exact number of how many, but there are wounded….The shooting did not last long. Today we did not see the shooting from Geghamasar, but only heard it. However in the night, when they shoot in the areas of Kut and Sotk, it happens that we see it, the children see it. It affects their psychological state. We are amazed if there is no shooting on one day. It is continual.”

Later, the Defense Ministry of Armenia announced that the victim killed during the shooting was Suren Yuriki Safaryan (born 2002), a conscript of N military unit. 

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