The Artsakh Foreign Ministry on Thursday issued a statement marking the 29th anniversary of the Soviet and Azerbaijani forces’ attacks on Getashen, Martunashen and Shahumyan, which became the spark for the Karabakh war.
The operation known as “Koltso”—or “Ring”—was organized and coordinated by the central authorities of the Soviet Union and Azerbaijan, whose aim was to surround and empty Artsakh of its Armenian population.
Below is the Artsakh foreign ministry’s statement.
29 years ago, under the direct organization and coordination of the central authorities of the USSR and Azerbaijan, a large-scale operation called “Koltso” (“Ring”) was carried out to deport the Armenian population of the borderline villages of Artsakh. This bloody operation ultimately transferred the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict to the military phase, initiating the subsequent full-scale aggression of Azerbaijan against the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh Republic).
On April 30, 1991, the massive shelling of Getashen and Martunashen villages of the Shahumyan region launched the operation ‘Koltso’, in the course of which tanks, combat helicopters, and artillery were employed for the first time against the civilians. Azerbaijani special police units (OMON), with the support of internal troops of the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Soviet Army, broke into Armenian villages formally supposedly for “checking the passport regime”, but in fact for killing, robbery, terror against the Armenian population, followed by deportation.
As a result of the military-police actions, dozens of Armenian villages of Northern Artsakh, as well as the Shahumyan, Hadrut and Shushi regions were destroyed, about ten thousand people were deported, over 100 people were killed, and hundreds of people were taken hostage. The fate of many of them remains unknown so far.
The Azerbaijani authorities considered the operation ‘Koltso’ as the beginning of the complete cleansing of Artsakh from the Armenian population. It became another manifestation of the policy of ethnic cleansing conducted by Azerbaijan in 1988-1991 in Sumgait, Baku and other settlements of the Azerbaijani SSR, as well as in the villages of Northern Artsakh.
The Armenian pogroms carried out by the Azerbaijani authorities in response to the demand of the people of Artsakh to exercise its inalienable right to self-determination and the subsequent military aggression against the Republic of Artsakh in 1991, which was repeated in April 2016, demonstrated that only the establishment and strengthening of an independent statehood can ensure the right of the people of Artsakh to live freely and safely in its homeland. The international community’s recognition of this reality and the international recognition of the Republic of Artsakh will become an additional deterrent against Azerbaijan’s desire to unleash a new war and will ensure peace and security in the entire region of the South Caucasus.