Destroyed apartment building in Stepanakert

Azerbaijani Invasion of Karabakh Leads to Deaths, Heavy Injuries; World Leaders Condemn Action, While Karabakh Leaders Seek to Talk with Baku

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YEREVAN (Combined Sources) — On September 19, Azerbaijani military forces launched  rocket-artillery systems, combat UAVs and air force in its attack on Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh.

“Battles continue along the entire line of contact. The Azerbaijani military is using artillery and rocket systems, combat UAVs and combat aviation,” the Defense Army said, adding that it will release additional updates in case of developments.

So far, as a result, five deaths and about 80 injuries have been reported as of this writing (M-S press time is Tuesday night).

“There are fatalities and wounded persons, including women, elderly and children as a result of the large-scale military operations by Azerbaijan against the Republic of Artsakh on September 19. As of this moment, 80 wounded are hospitalized in the Republican Medical Center of the Artsakh Healthcare Ministry, and according to preliminary information 15 of them are civilians. Unfortunately, five deaths have been recorded. Doctors are doing everything possible to save the lives of the gravely wounded,” the NK healthcare ministry said.

Another destroyed dwelling in Artsakh

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said that its troops are taking “counterterrorism measures” against Karabakh Armenian forces in order to restore the Azerbaijani “constitutional order” in Karabakh.

“On September 19, at around 1 pm, the Azerbaijani armed forces violated the ceasefire along the entire Line of Contact by launching rocket artillery attacks,” read a statement released by Karabakh’s Defense Army. It said its units are putting up “stiff resistance” to Azerbaijani attempts to advance into Karabakh.

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“The sound of explosions can be heard in Stepanakert right now,” a local journalist, Marut Vanian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “Screaming children, their parents went down to basements for cover.”

“The whole Stepanakert is shelled from all directions,” said Metakse Hakobian, a local parliamentarian. “Parents and children have lost each other. The situation is terrible. People have no fuel to look for their kids.”

An Armenian opposition lawmaker, Tigran Abrahamian, said that the Azerbaijani army is targeting Karabakh’s military installations.

An injured child in Stepanakert

“It’s not yet clear whether civilian facilities are also being targeted,” Abrahamian wrote on Facebook.

Abrahamian said later in the afternoon that Karabakh forces are engaged in “heavy combat” with the Azerbaijani army at various sections of the Karabakh “line of contact.” “At a number of sections the enemy’s advance was stopped by intensive gunfire.” He said.

Baku claimed earlier in the day that six Azerbaijanis were killed in an Azerbaijani-controlled part of Karabakh after hitting landmines planted by Karabakh forces. It did not identify the victims. The authorities in Stepanakert strongly denied the claims.

Shortly afterwards, fighting reportedly broke out in Karabakh’s eastern Askeran district, with the Karabakh army saying that Azerbaijani troops opened mortar fire at its positions in the area.

Social media is one way of getting information from Artsakh. Former Premier Ruben Vardanyan, on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, released a short video in which he described the state of Stepanakert. He decried the attack and asked for help.

Similarly, Artsakh Human Rights Ombudsman Gegham Stepanyan and former premier Artak Beglaryan are regularly updating their social media about the situation there.

One worrisome situation is the village of Yeghtsahogh, outside Shushi, which is completely surrounded by the Azerbaijani forces.

An injured child in Stepanakert

Stepanyan said that the Azerbaijani military has destroyed the village school.

“Yeghtsahogh community of Shushi region with a total of 150 residents has come under the direct target of the Azerbaijani side. The Azerbaijani Armed Forces have destroyed the school of the community. There is no opportunity to evacuate the residents, they are completely surrounded by Azerbaijan,” Stepanyan said on X.

In the wake of the attack, Nagorno-Karabakh’s leadership offered to negotiate with Azerbaijan.

“The Karabakh side appeals to the Azerbaijani side to immediately cease the hostilities and sit down at the negotiation table with the aim of settling the situation,” it said in a statement issued late in the afternoon.

The office of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev responded by saying that it is ready to meet with Karabakh Armenian representatives in the Azerbaijani town of Yevlakh. It stressed at the same time that the Azerbaijani offensive will continue unless the Karabakh Armenians disband their government bodies and armed forces.

World Reactions

Russia’s peacekeeping contingent in Karabakh did not immediately react to what appeared to be the worst fighting in and around Karabakh since the 2020 Armenian-Azerbaijani war was stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire. Baku said that it informed the peacekeepers about its offensive.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said Moscow is in touch with the conflicting sides and is urging them to stop the fighting. She also said the peacekeepers are continuing to do their job.

Russia said on Tuesday it was only given notice of Azerbaijan’s operation “minutes” before its launch, denying it was told in advance.

Zakharova said in statements that media reports suggesting Azerbaijan warned the Russian peacekeepers stationed in the region in advance “does not correspond to reality.”

“Military actions of Azerbaijan must be stopped immediately to allow for a genuine dialogue between Baku and Karabakh Armenians,” EU Council President Charles Michel said later in the day.

Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry insisted on the “complete withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces” from Karabakh. Armenia’s Defense Ministry again strongly denied having any troops there.

The loved one of an injured person in Stepanakert

The EU is calling for halting of any hostilities and for looking for solutions diplomatically, EU External Action spokesperson Peter Stano told Armenpress when asked what steps the EU is going to take to restrain Azerbaijan’s genocidal policy in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“We are assessing the situation very closely, watching the developments on the ground. The EU was always very consistent when it comes to our position regarding relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, that we discourage unilateral steps, we call for halting of any hostilities and for looking for solutions in the process of diplomatic dialogue in case of Armenia and Azerbaijan through the normalization process which was launched and also is facilitated by the EU,” Stano said, adding that a more specific comment and more specific reaction on the situation will be done by High Representative Josep Borrell.

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Chairman-in-Office Bujar Osmani, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia, expressed deep concern.

“As OSCE Chairman-in-Office I am deeply concerned by reports of military operations and the related danger for civilians in Stepanakert/Khankendi. I call for immediate deescalation. Peaceful dialogue should be the only option and humanitarian concerns must prevail. Today I will meet Azerbaijani FM Jeyhun Bayramov and Armenian FM Ararat Mirzoyan at UNGA78 in #NYC and renew my call to continue diplomatic engagement and prioritize efforts towards sustainable peace,” Osmani said on social media.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock accused Azerbaijan of going back on its word by launching military action in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, “Baku’s promise to refrain from military action was broken.”

Speaking from the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Baerbock urged, “Azerbaijan must immediately stop shelling and return to the negotiating table.”

“The crucial thing is to protect the civilian population in Nagorno-Karabakh,” the diplomat said. “This is also the task of Russian soldiers stationed there.”

Baerbock said Berlin supported peace talks as the only path forward, claiming, “In view of today’s escalation, these are more urgent than ever.”

France urged the United Nations Security Council to immediately convene following Baku’s operations.

The French Foreign Ministry said in a statement that no pretext could justify the military operation Azerbaijan launched in Nagorno-Karabakh.

France said that the outbreak of fighting “threatens thousands of civilians already affected by a month-long illegal blockade and which runs against efforts by the international community to reach a negotiated settlement.”

Paris said it was working with its partners to prepare a “strong response” to this “unacceptable offensive.”

In addition, members of the European Parliament David McAllister, Marina Kaljurand, Andrey Kovatchev, Željana Zovko have condemned in strongest terms the pre-planned and unjustified attack of Azerbaijan against Nagorno-Karabakh.

“We deplore the loss of life in reported landmine explosions earlier in the day and express our condolences to the families of the victims. However, this under no circumstances justifies Azerbaijan’s large-scale military escalation. The clearly pre-planned attack, reported along the entire line of contact, coming just hours after the blasts and following weeks of observed Azerbaijani military build-up and aggressive rhetoric, is totally unacceptable,” the MEPs said in a joint statement.

“We deplore the fact that Baku’s offensive seriously undermines the ongoing peace negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia and urge the President of Azerbaijan to accept recent calls of the Armenian Prime Minister for the resumption of talks at the highest level,” the lawmakers said.

“We recall that the attack takes place in the context of a major humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh, following Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Lachin Corridor for the past nine months, in violation of Baku’s commitments under the ceasefire statement of 9 November 2020 and of the legally binding orders of the International Court of Justice. Humanitarian access to Nagorno-Karabakh needs to be fully and permanently restored,” the continued.

“We are seriously concerned about the consequences of Azerbaijan’s actions on the civilian population and urge Azerbaijan to refrain from using military escalation as a pretext to force the exodus of the local population. In the absence of an immediate halt to the ongoing attack, we call on the Council to fundamentally reconsider the EU’s relations with Azerbaijan in this light, and consider imposing sanctions against responsible Azerbaijani,” Members of the European Parliament said.

The Freedom House has strongly condemned the Azerbaijani government’s violent attacks in Nagorno-Karabakh, heightening the risk of ethnic cleansing against the region’s Armenian population.

“Any attempt to forcibly change the region’s demographics is illegal and unacceptable,” the organization said in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

“We urge the international community to protect the civilian population in Nagorno-Karabakh, prevent crimes against humanity in the region, and hold the Azerbaijani government accountable for the wellbeing of Armenians in the region,” the Freedom House said.

Children in a shelter in Stepanakert (AP photo)

Condemnation from Armenia

Armenia on Tuesday strongly condemned Azerbaijan’s latest military offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh and appealed to the international community to stop “the Azerbaijani aggression.”

In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia brushed aside Baku’s claims that the military operation was launched in response to Yerevan’s failure to “withdraw the Armenian armed forces” from Karabakh.

“We again state that Armenia has no troops and military hardware deployed in Karabakh and all claims about [Armenian] land mining and sabotage activities are false and fabricated,” it said.

The international community and, in particular, the Russian peacekeeping forces in Karabakh should “take clear and unequivocal steps to end Azerbaijan’s aggression,” added the statement issued during an emergency session of Armenia’s Security Council chaired by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

Over the past year, Pashinyan has repeatedly ruled out any Armenian military intervention in Karabakh. In May this year, he publicly recognized Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan.

Yerevan said earlier this month that Baku is massing troops along the Karabakh “line of contact” and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in preparation for another war. The Azerbaijani side denied that while alleging growing Armenian “military provocations” in the conflict zone.

The Foreign Ministry statement said that the “false” allegations were aimed at justifying the Azerbaijani military action launched more than nine months after Baku blocked traffic through the sole road connecting Karabakh to Armenia.

Armenia is not involved in the military actions and does not maintain any military presence in Nagorno-Karabakh, Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan said amid the ongoing attack.

He said that the situation along the borders of Armenia is relatively stable, with no visible or significant changes in the situation.

“But as I’ve said, I repeat that the main and key target, the goal of this operation is to drag the Republic of Armenia into military operations,” Pashinyan warned.

Pashinyan stated that a number of Azerbaijani news media are falsely reporting that Azeri forces are targeting the military units of the Republic of Armenia, referring to Nagorno-Karabakh’s defense army.

“Unfortunately, a number of our colleagues are repeating this information, who say that they call on Armenia and Azerbaijan to halt the military operations. I want to state for the record that the Republic of Armenia is not involved in the military operations and I want to once again record that the Republic of Armenia doesn’t have an army in Nagorno-Karabakh,” PM Pashinyan said.

He warned that a number of domestic and foreign forces are seeking to drag Armenia into hostilities. “This is visible and with our stance we are recording that the attempts to drag the Republic of Armenia into military escalation are unacceptable for us and we will manage this process, as much as we understand the emotional and other issues we all have in this situation. We shouldn’t allow some people, some forces, foreign or domestic, to question the statehood of Armenia,” Pashinyan said.

Pashinyan discussed in a telephone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron the situation.

According to the press service of the Armenian government, both sides emphasized the inadmissibility of the use of force and stressed the need to use international de-escalation mechanisms.

Macron said that France will initiate an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council in connection with the situation in Karabakh.

Pashinyan also spoke with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, his press office reported.

Both sides emphasized the inadmissibility of using force and the need to use international mechanisms for de-escalation.

(Stories from Azatutyun, Public Radio of Armenia, Armenpress, ARKA, Deutsche Welle were used to compile this report.)

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