A man prays at one of the fresh graves of Armenian soldiers killed in the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh and buried in the Yerablur military pantheon in Yerevan, January 28, 2021

Armenian Leaders Cancel Key Ceremony On Karabakh War Anniversary

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By Robert Zargarian

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Avoiding another confrontation with angry parents of fallen soldiers, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and other senior officials did not visit Armenia’s main military cemetery on Tuesday to mark the second anniversary of the devastating war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The war broke out early on September 27, 2020 when Azerbaijan launched a large-scale military offensive along the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” around Karabakh. The Azerbaijani army captured four districts south of Karabakh’s southern Hadrut district and the town of Shushi (Shusha) before a Russian-brokered ceasefire stopped the hostilities on November 10.

Baku also regained control in the following weeks over the three other districts occupied by Karabakh Armenian forces in the early 1990s. The truce accord negotiated by Russian President Vladimir Putin also led to the deployment of 2,000 Russian peacekeeping forces in Karabakh.

According to the Armenian authorities, 3,825 Armenian soldiers and 80 civilians were killed during the six-week war. At least 203 other servicemen remain unaccounted for.

Early in the morning, the parents of several dozen soldiers killed in action gathered at the Yerablur Military Pantheon in Yerevan to try to prevent Pashinyan from laying flowers there as part of planned official ceremonies to mark the war anniversary. They hold him responsible for the deaths of their sons.

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The same protesters tried unsuccessfully to disrupt a wreath-laying ceremony led by Pashinyan there on Armenia’s Independence Day on September 21. Riot police broke up the protest and detained dozens of its participants, causing uproar from opposition and civic groups.

Pashinyan, members of his government and political team as well as President Vahagn Khachaturian decided not to visit Yerablur this time around. According to pro-government media, they did not want to cause further tension at the cemetery where hundreds of Armenian victims of the 2020 war were laid to rest.

“Today, we once again bow our heads and commemorate the fallen warriors of the 44-day war, who fought to stop the existential threat facing our compatriots,” the Armenian Foreign Ministry said in a statement released on the occasion.

The ministry said the six-week war demonstrated “Azerbaijan’s state policy of ethnic cleansing of Armenians of Artsakh.”

“Even today, through the use of force and the threat of use of force, Azerbaijan attempts to realize its maximalist aspirations, rejecting the very fact of Nagorno-Karabakh’s existence as a territorial unit and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” it said.

The war anniversary was also marked in Azerbaijan whose government has acknowledged over 2,900 combat and civilian deaths. The country observed a minute of silence in memory of its war dead.

 

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