Azerbaijani Military Post Damaged, Soldiers Killed in Response to Heavy Shelling of Armenian Positions
STEPANAKERT—Artsakh Army responded to major shelling by Azerbaijani forces on Tuesday evening causing heavy losses for Azerbaijan that included fatalities as well as damage to a military post in the Azerbaijani village of Alkhanli, in the southwestern area of the Artsakh-Azerbaijan border, according the Artsakh Ministry of Defense.
According to the Artsakh Defense Ministry the retaliation resulted from an attack by the Azerbaijani forces, which used TR-107 rocket launchers, on Artsakh positions in Varanda, formerly Fizouli. The Artsakh Defense Ministry immediately reported the attack to relevant international bodies and warned that Azerbaijan was attacking Artsakh position from posts stationed within residential areas and using civilians as “human shields.”
On Wednesday, the Artsakh Defense Ministry released a video (see below) clearly showing Azerbaijan’s use of the TR-107 rocket launchers. Also on Wednesday, the Artsakh Defense Ministry refuted Azerbaijani media reports claiming that three Artsakh soldiers were killed during the July 4 attacks.
Another video released (see below) Wednesday by Arshak Zakaryan, a videographer who works with Armenia’s Defense Ministry, shows Azerbaijani attack on Artsakh from a residential area in the Alkhani village.
“Unlike Azerbaijan, the Artsakh Defnese Ministry Artsakh is committed to transparency and regularly provides information on the incidents taking place, whereas disinformation by the enemy is directed exclusively to a domestic audience,” said the Artsakh Defense Ministry.
In an audio recording (listen below), released separately by the Artsakh Defense Ministry on Wednesday, a conversation between Azerbaijani forces proves that the retaliatory fire from Artsakh forces were aimed at neutralizing Azerbaijani attacks. The audio recording also confirms that Azerbaijani forces regularly position themselves within residential areas, turning civilians into human shields.
Artsakh’s defense and foreign ministries on Wednesday touched on the Azerbaijani practice of using its civilian population as human shields with the foreign ministry issuing a statement saying, “in violation of all the norms of international humanitarian law, Baku does not disdain to use its civilian population as a human shield for shelling the territory of Artsakh.”
Artsakh Defense Minister Levon Mnatsakanyan told Interfax Wednesday that “Hiding behind its own people Azerbaijan grossly violates norms of international law.”
Mnatsakanyan also added that Baku’s leadership has legitimized the practice of deploying its firing posts within residential areas and conducting its attacks on Artsakh posts.
“By hiding behind its own people and making them human shields the enemy grossly violates the norms of international law. If the Azerbaijanis really suffered civilian losses, then we have to express regret. But at the same time I announce with full responsibility that today and in the future the Armed Forces of Artsakh will continue to fully utilize their right to protect themselves and will give targeted and disproportionate response to the Azerbaijani attacks if necessary,” Mnatsakanyan told Interfax.
He also dismissed Azerbaijani claims that the Artsakh retaliation resulted in civilian casualties calling it another effort by Baku to mislead the international community.
“First of all I want to say that the Artsakh Army has never been the attacker; however, it is always ready to counter any provocative action launched by the enemy,” said Mnatsakanyan.
As for the Azerbaijani claims of civilian deaths after the retaliation on Alkhanlu village on July 4 Mnatsakanyan said: “this is nothing more than a cynical way to mislead the international community at the expense of the blood of its own innocent people. The Defense Army of Artsakh has never targeted civilian settlements, as it is typical to our adversary, our target has been and will always be those military positions from where the enemy opens fires toward Armenian positions.”
Mnatsakanyan urged Azerbaijan to refrain from further military attacks and find a solution at the “negotiating table.”
Also on Wednesday, Armenia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tigran Balayan said in a tweet that in order to prevent further Azerbaijani provocations and losses, Baku must agree to implement the Vienna and St. Petersburg agreements. “To continue provocations on the LoC [Line of Contact], Azerbaijan’s [President] is blocking the establishment of investigation mechanism of incidents,” Balayan also tweeted. In a separate tweet, Balayan said that the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen were briefed on the situation by Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian.
This sentiment was echoed on Wednesday by Armenia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharyan who said that Azerbaijan’s refusal to establish investigative mechanism serves its intention to put the blame for its continuous provocations on the Armenian sides.
“This is yet another crime committed by Baku’s hereditary regime, which is founded on hatred toward its neighboring nation and the blood of its own population,” Kocharyan said in the Orkarak program of Armenia’s Public Television.
“As long as Azerbaijan fails to implement its international commitments under the 1994 and 1995 trilateral agreements between Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia on a armistice and the ceasefire, and refuses to implement the Vienna and St. Petersburg agreements aimed at the consolidation of the ceasefire and continues to initiate military provocations against Artsakh and Armenia, then the same leadership of Azerbaijan bears full responsibility for all human casualties of those provocations, regardless of their nationality,” said Kocharyan.
Kocharyan also commented on the Turkish Foreign Ministry, which chimed in on Wednesday to offer its support to its “Azerbaijani brothers” and to accuse Armenians of violence.
“During the last April aggression unleashed by Azerbaijan Turkey not only failed to condemn the targeting of civilian population of Artsakh by Azerbaijan, including the killing of children, the barbaric mutilation of elderly people, as well as the ISIS-style beheading of captured Armenian soldiers, but in fact, encouraged those war crimes,” said Kocharyan.
“On the other hand, Turkey declares that it condemns the casualties among the Azerbaijani civilian population suffered as a result of the provocation initiated by the very same Azerbaijan, without even mentioning that the main reason for those casualties was the official Baku’s policy to use its civilian population as human shields. It seems that Turkey’s condemnation or sympathy is conditioned by the national identity, which is far beyond the remits of civilized commentary,” added Kocharyan.
Minsk Group co-chairman urge end to military action
The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs – Ambassador Igor Popov of the Russian Federation, Ambassador Stephane Visconti of France, and Ambassador Richard Hoagland of the United States – have received information of renewed violence late in the evening on 4 July at Alkhanli village of Fizuli region that resulted in casualties, including civilians.
The Minsk Group Co-Chairs urgently call upon the sides to cease military action. Violence only begets further violence and accomplishes nothing. The only responsible and humane way to resolve this long-standing conflict is for the sides to return to the negotiation table in good faith.
The Co-Chairs extend their condolences to the families of the victims.