Azerbaijan has sent troops backed by artillery attacks into Armenian-controlled Nagorno-Karabakh, warning that its operation would not stop until Armenian forces surrender.
The attacks on Tuesday raised the threat of a new war in the ethnic Armenian region of Azerbaijan, which has been a flashpoint since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is internationally recognized as Azerbaijani territory but part of it is run by separatist Armenian authorities, who have said the area, with a population of about 120,000, is their ancestral homeland.
Baku launched what it has called an “anti-terrorist operation” hours after four soldiers and two civilians were killed by landmines that it claimed were planted by Armenian saboteurs.
Azerbaijani forces on Tuesday seized more than 60 military posts and destroyed up to 20 military vehicles with other hardware, the ministry said in a statement. Armenia’s foreign ministry condemned the attacks and said Azerbaijan had “unleashed another large-scale aggression against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, aiming to complete its policy of ethnic cleansing”.
A separatist Armenian human rights official in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh said 25 people had been killed, including two civilians.
The foreign policy adviser to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Hikmet Hajiyev, claimed that while Baku was using high-precision weapons, “collateral damage” was likely unavoidable as civilians were being used as “human shields” in the contested region.
The state news agency quoted the presidential administration as saying that Azerbaijan would continue the operation “until the end” unless “Armenian military units” surrender and give up their weapons.
Nagorno-Karabakh and sizable surrounding territories came under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by the Armenian military at the end of a separatist war in 1994. Azerbaijan regained the territories and parts of Nagorno-Karabakh itself in fighting in 2020.
Armenia, which has said its armed forces are not in Karabakh and that the situation on its border with Azerbaijan is stable, called on members of the UN Security Council to help and for Russian peacekeepers deployed since the end of the previous conflict in 2020 to intervene.