Armenia, Azerbaijan edge closer to outright war

Armenia, Azerbaijan edge closer to outright war
Official photograph released by Armenia of claimed damage to residential building in Stepanakert after alleged Azerbaijani shelling. / Official publication.
By bne IntelIiNews October 4, 2020

There were multiple but unconfirmed reports of Armenian attacks on Azerbaijani towns outside of the disputed Nagorno-Karaback enclave on social media

Armenia and Azerbaijan over the weekend edged closer to outright war as fighting escalated dramatically over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh amid multiple reports of attacks on Azerbaijani towns and cities outside of the disputed enclave.

Baku accused Armenian forces of firing rockets at its second city Ganja, which lies outside the contested enclave. It said at least one civilian was killed and 32 more injured in the October 4 attack on Ganja, located around 100km (60 miles) north of the Karabakh capital, Stepanakert.

Unverified video shared on social media seems to confirm the reports and shows buildings in central Ganja damaged by rocket attacks and shelling. 

Video shared on social media shows buildings damaged by shelling and rocket attacks in the Azerbaijani town of Ganja

Azerbaijani presidential aide Hikmet Hajiyev late on October 4 added that the industrial city of Mingachevir had been attacked. “Mingachevir hosts water reservoir and key electricity plant. Barbaric expression of desperation,” Hajiyev said on Twitter. Prior to his comments on Mingachevir, he claimed that there had also been civilian casualties from an attack in another region of Azerbaijan, Beylagan, which borders Nagorno-Karabakh. There were also reports that the Azerbaijani cities of Terter and Goradiz had been shelled.

Armenia denied it had directed fire “of any kind” towards Azerbaijan. But the Armenian leader of self-proclaimed republic Nagorno-Karabakh, Arayik Harutyunyan, confirmed on Facebook that his forces targeted a military airbase in Ganje, but then ceased firing to avoid civilian casualties.

Armenia said on October 4 that Stepanakert, which has been under artillery fire since October 2, was hit again. Armenian officials published video footage showing burning buildings and vehicles in the aftermath of the attack on the city. "Azerbaijani forces are shelling civilian targets in Stepanakert with rockets," Armenian Defence Ministry spokesman Artsrun Hovhannisian said.

The BBC's Johan Fisher in Stepanakert  reported on shelling over the weekend that targeted the city and destroyed buildings sending residents scrambling for basements and air raid shelters. There are also reports that Azerbaijan was using cluster bombs on the city that has also been a target in previous fighting between the two opponents. Other reports claimed the power station in the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave was taken out and tat power to the city is cut off.

Casualties from the past week’s fighting have undoubtedly run into the hundreds, but precise figures are impossible to obtain and verify. Both Baku and Yerevan accuse each other of continuously targeting civilians.


A BBC report showed Stepanakert under bombardment by Azerbaijan forces

Question of how far Azerbaijan will go

As the conflict enters its second week, the question turns to how far Azerbaijan, emboldened by bellicose backing from Turkey but under pressure from Russia, the European Union and the US for an immediate ceasefire, is prepared to go. That’s especially the case as Russia—a strategic partner of Armenia, where it has military bases, but also mindful that it has close links with Baku—must decide what it will tolerate in its back yard.