The vehicle in which the police officers were riding, riddled with bullets

Karabakh Leader Warns of More ‘Azeri Provocations’ after Assassination of Three Police Officers

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STEPANAKERT (Combined Sources) — Nagorno-Karabakh’s leadership on Monday, March 6, warned local residents to brace themselves for more Azerbaijani “provocations” following Sunday’s armed incident near Stepanakert that left five people dead.

“The vast majority of our people agree that we will not deviate from our right to self-determination and independence, and that means we are going to deal with various developments and situations soon,” Arayik Harutyunyan, the Karabakh president, told an emergency meeting with other officials in Stepanakert.

Three of the victims were Karabakh police officers. According to the authorities in Stepanakert, a car carrying them was ambushed by an Azerbaijani sabotage group that was then repelled by Karabakh soldiers deployed nearby.

Armenia released a video of the shooting and its aftermath.

The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed on Monday that the Azerbaijani forces were the first to open fire at the Karabakh police vehicle and that two of them were killed in the ensuing firefight which it said was stopped by Russian peacekeepers stationed in Karabakh.

The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed “serious concern” at the incident but did not blame either party for it.

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“We strongly urge the sides to show restraint and take steps to de-escalate the situation,” said Maria Zakharova, the ministry spokeswoman.

Echoing a weekend statement by the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan condemned the shootings as an act of “terrorism” which is part of Baku’s efforts to drive the Karabakh Armenians out of their homeland.

Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov accused Armenia of continuing to resort to “provocations” in the conflict zone despite Azerbaijan’s “peace efforts.”

Speaking during the Stepanakert meeting, Harutyunyan warned that Baku could provoke more such violence in a bird to force the Karabakh Armenians into submission.

“We must keep fighting for a long time and there will be such situations during that struggle,” he said. ”We need to be aware of that and take preventive steps.”

The three police officers assassinated by Azerbaijani military

The Karabakh leader linked Sunday’s bloodshed to the March 1 meeting between Azerbaijani and Karabakh officials which was mediated by the commander of the Russian peacekeepers. He said during that meeting his representatives refused to discuss Karabakh’s “integration” into Azerbaijan.

In his words, the Azerbaijani side warned afterwards that if Stepanakert persists in opposing the restoration of Azerbaijani rule, Baku will not only continue to block Karabakh’s land link with Armenia but also take “tougher and more drastic steps.”

It was not clear whether the Russian peacekeepers are planning more talks between the two sides.

Artsakh MFA Appeals to International Community

Artsakh’s Foreign Ministry calls on the international community to take effective measures under international law to stop the terrorist and genocidal policy of Azerbaijan.

A preliminary analysis of the circumstances of the killing of police officers allows one to conclude the actions qualify as a war crime, the MFA said.

“The infiltration of the Azerbaijani sabotage group into the territory of Artsakh and the attack on Artsakh police officers is another flagrant violation of the Trilateral Statement of November 9, 2020, which indicates that the Azerbaijani side is seeking to initiate an escalation of tension. Earlier, on 2 and on the night of 2 to 3 March, units of the Azerbaijani armed forces stationed in the occupied territories of the Askeran, Martakert and Martuni regions of the Republic of Artsakh also violated the ceasefire established by the Trilateral Statement of 9 November 2020,” the Ministry said.

It noted that these attacks were carried out immediately after the talks on unblocking the Lachin Corridor held between representatives of Artsakh and Azerbaijan on 1 March.

“Through its actions, Baku openly demonstrates its rejection of negotiations as a means of finding solutions to any issues,” the Ministry said.

“Against the background of the more than 80-day blockade of Artsakh, aimed at deliberately creating unbearable living conditions for its people, a serious escalation of the situation, resulting in casualties, once again demonstrates the true objectives of Azerbaijan and its intention to complete the ethnic cleansing of Artsakh. Apparently, the lack of adequate measures on the part of the international community aimed at stopping the internationally wrongful acts of Azerbaijan was perceived by the authorities of this country as a carte blanche to commit new atrocities,” the Foreign Ministry said.

“We once again call on the international community as a whole and the parties involved in the settlement of the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict in particular to reconsider their approaches and take effective measures under international law to stop the terrorist and genocidal policy of Azerbaijan,” it said.

Emergency session of the Karabakh leadership

Foreign Ministry of Armenia Asks for Fact-Finding Mission

Sending an international fact-finding mission to the Lachin corridor and Nagorno-Karabakh becomes a vital necessity, Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

The statement reads, in part:

The facts prove that this provocation was pre-planned and instructed by the highest leadership of Azerbaijan. After the ambush, Azerbaijan’s official bodies spread disinformation alleging that they received reports that weapons, ammunition and personnel are being transferred from Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh and acted on these.

The official version of events put forward by Azerbaijan is absurd: they have not presented and cannot present any fact and justification supporting that version. This happens less than two weeks after the decision of the International Court of Justice that wholly rejected Azerbaijan’s absurd claims on the alleged laying of landmines by Armenia.

The video that Nagorno-Karabakh Police has proved that the Azerbaijani military attacked the “UAZ” microbus that carried four employees of the Nagorno-Karabakh Ministry of Internal Affairs, who were on their way from Stepanakert to Hin Shen and Mets Shen villages of Nagorno-Karabakh. Moreover, the videos prove that there was nothing in the microbus except official documents and a service pistol.

The actions of the Azerbaijani forces cannot be described as anything other than terrorism. In parallel to blocking the Lachin corridor and creating a humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh for almost three months, Azerbaijan continues to terrorize the Armenians of Artsakh by creating inhumane conditions for living in their homeland with the ultimate goal of ethnic cleansing.

It is noteworthy that after the International Court of Justice on February 22 granted Armenia’s request to apply a provisional measure against Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijani side not only did not take steps towards the implementation of the legally binding decision of the Court but committed new crimes against Armenians of Artsakh, including civilians. On February 28, the Azerbaijani armed forces opened fire on a resident of the village of Myurishen, Martuni region of Artsakh, who was carrying out agricultural work. The ceasefire was also violated by the Azerbaijani armed forces on March 2 and on the night of March 2-3, from the territories of Askeran, Martakert and Martuni regions under Azerbaijani control.

This once again shows the need for guarantees for ensuring the rights and security of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh and the international involvement in them.

The Republic of Armenia calls on the international community, countries and international organizations interested in the establishment of real peace in our region to strongly condemn the use of force and the threat of force by Azerbaijan, as well as another manifestation of provoking large-scale hostilities and take active steps to prevent further violations of Azerbaijan’s own international obligations.

A video of the incident can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPCgIwPyrVY

(Stories from Azatutyun and Public Radio of Armenia were used in this report.)

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