STEPANAKERT, Artsakh (ArmRadio)—The Azerbaijani launched an offensive toward Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) Republic positions on February 25 using various weaponry in the southeastern (Martuni) and eastern (Akna) directions of the Artsakh/Azerbaijani border, also known as the line of contact, twice at 3am and 4am, the Artsakh Defense Ministry reported.
The Artsakh armed forces did not have any casualties, while Azerbaijan lost five servicemen in the neutral zone.
“The attempt was a complete failure,” the Ministry said, adding that, as the Azeri side tried to ascribe its actions to the Armenian side.
In particular, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry issued a statement, claiming that the Artsakh forces had undertaken an attack with a view of improving their positions and noting that the Azerbaijani side had incurred losses in the “defensive.”
The press service of Artsakh Defense Ministry declared that the claims do not coincide with reality.
A video providing a visual of Azerbaijan’s Saturday attack was posted by spokesman for the Armenian Ministry of Defense Artsrun Hovhannisyan. The video can be watched below.
“The first circle indicates the launch of the “Tropa” demining system. The second shows the dust that rises after the launching of it, also as the response fire opened by the Armenian side. The third shows the Azeri troops escaping under Armenian fire. The video footage reflects the actions in the direction of Akna (Aghdam). The corpses of the Azerbaijani soldiers are clearly seen at the end of the video,” Hovhannisyan clarified.
“The military-political leadership of Azerbaijan had been aggravating the situation at the line of contact for several days and spreading misinformation.”
According to the Ministry, Azerbaijan continuously spoke about the “attacks” of the Armenian defense, misleading its own people and the international community.
“The Armenian side is committed to the maintenance of the ceasefire regime and calls on the Azerbaijani party to refrain from further aggravation of the situation,” the Defense Ministry said.
“The military-political leadership of Azerbaijan bears full responsibility for tension at the line of contact,” the statement concluded.
In a statement issued by the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they said that Azerbaijan failed to uphold the 1994-1995 ceasefire agreements and inflicted “another blow to the efforts by Armenia and the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries exerted towards the peaceful settlement.”
“While continuing attempts to undermine the agreements reached in Vienna and St. Petersburg on the creation of conducive conditions for the advancement of the negotiation process, Baku intentionally escalates the situation, and initiates new provocations,” the statement read.
The Ministry called on the international community and the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries to “sober up Baku and to bring it to reality.”
Levon Ayvazyan, Head of Defense Policy Department of the Armenian Ministry of Defense, received on Saturday the Military Attachés of foreign countries accredited to Armenia.
The Military Attachés were briefed on the intrusion attempt by the Azerbaijani forces at the line of contact with Artsakh troops that night, its prevention and the losses of the rival, as well as the current situation at the frontline.
According to Ayvazyan, under the current conditions, the Armenian side hopes Azerbaijan will refrain from steps that will further escalate the tension.
He noted that all necessary measures would be taken to prevent any further attacks by Azerbaijan.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry has published the names of the names of its soldiers killed in the neutral zone as a result of Saturday’s attack attempt by the Azerbaijani forces.
Baku claims that the Karabakh side hindered the recovery of the bodies, bringing forth new requirements.
The Artsakh Defense Ministry declareed that according to an agreement reached between the parties with the mediation of the Special Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, the recovery of bodies was to be organized on February 26 with the participation of ICRC representatives.
Artsakh says Azerbaijan is to blame for the failure to recover the bodies. “Evacuation of bodies did not take place because the Azeri side violated agreements,” the Ministry said in a statement.
The bodies of the Azerbaijani casualties were removed from the neutral zone at about 5pm under an agreement reached between the two parties with the mediation of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Artsakh Defense Ministry reported on Monday.
The operation was carried out with the participation of the Field Assistants of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office and representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICTC).
The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (Ambassadors Igor Popov of Russia, Stephane Visconti of France and Richard Hoagland of the United States of America) released a statement on February 26, urging the sides of the Karabakh conflict to refrain from the use of force.
“According to reports from the Ministries of Defense of Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as other sources, in the early morning of February 25 there was a serious breach of cease fire on the Line of Contact, resulting in casualties. Several bodies remain in the no-man’s land. The Sides accuse each other of an incursion attempt.
The Co-chairs call upon the Parties to keep heavy military equipment, which had been moved earlier close to the LOC, in its present positions and to allow recovery of the dead, as it was agreed upon yesterday under mediation of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chaiman-in-Office.
The Co-chairs remind the Parties of their commitments to refrain from the use of force.”
The Artsakh Foreign Ministry on Monday issued a statement regarding Saturday’s attempted attack on Artsakh. The statement can be read below.
“In the early hours of February 25, 2017, the Azerbaijani armed forces attempted an attack on the positions of the Defense Army of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), which was neutralized by the military units of Artsakh. The incident was the most serious violation of the ceasefire by Azerbaijan after the April War of 2016. Similar to last April, it followed the systematic and deliberate steps by the Azerbaijani side on the gradual escalation of tensions, to which the mediators responded by untargeted appeals for restraint.
The incident of February 25 is proof yet again of the total disregard for the commitments assumed by Azerbaijan in the frameworks of the agreements of 1994 and 1995, as well as the agreements reached in Vienna and St. Petersburg. It is obvious that by increasing the degree of tensions on the Line of Contact the Azerbaijani side tries to check not only the combat capability of the Defense Army of Artsakh, but also the reaction of the international community to the use of force.
It was the absence of the international community’s strong and targeted assessment of actions of Azerbaijani authorities on disrupting the process of peaceful settlement of the conflict and preparing for war that to a certain extent, created a situation, taking an advantage of which, Baku considered it possible to unleash a military aggression against Artsakh in April 2016.
The escalation of tension on the Line of Contact, provoked by the Azerbaijani side, only deepens the distrust and postpones the prospects for a final resolution of the conflict. We believe that the response to the provocative policy of Azerbaijan must be refraining from making untargeted appeals to the parties of the conflict and increased efforts on the practical implementation of the agreements reached in Vienna and St. Petersburg on strengthening the ceasefire and creating conditions for the resumption of the negotiation process.”