Azerbaijan on Tuesday launched a army operation in opposition to the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh area and demanded the overall withdrawal of Armenian forces from the disputed mountainous territory as a precondition for peace.
Fears of a contemporary struggle have been rising in current months, with Armenia accusing Azerbaijan of a troop build-up and decrying a blockade of its solely land hyperlink to Nagorno-Karabakh.
An AFP journalist within the separatist stronghold of Stepanakert mentioned blasts could possibly be heard within the city.
One other AFP contributor mentioned he may hear “continuous shelling,” the sound of sirens and of a drone overhead.
Azerbaijan’s protection ministry mentioned it was utilizing “excessive precision weapons on the entrance line and in depth.”
“Localised anti-terrorist measures have been launched within the area,” the protection ministry mentioned in a press release.
The ministry mentioned it had opened “humanitarian corridors and reception factors” to permit civilians to depart.
Armenian separatists mentioned two civilians had been killed and 23 had been wounded within the preventing, accusing Azerbaijani forces of “attempting to advance” into Karabakh.
The ex-Soviet Caucasus rivals have been locked in a decades-long dispute over Karabakh with large-scale hostilities breaking out within the Nineteen Nineties and in 2020.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan mentioned Azerbaijan had begun a “floor operation aimed toward ethnic cleaning of Karabakh Armenians.”
Pashinyan mentioned the Armenian military was not concerned within the preventing, and the state of affairs on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan was “secure.”
In televised feedback, he urged Russia and the UN to “take steps.”
Lots of of individuals gathered outdoors the federal government constructing within the Armenian capital Yerevan, based on pictures proven on TV, following requires a protest to induce the federal government to answer the Azerbaijani operation.
“We should not permit sure individuals, sure forces to deal a blow to the Armenian state,” Pashinyan mentioned.
“There are already calls, coming from totally different locations, to stage a coup in Armenia.”
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Armenia’s overseas ministry condemned Azerbaijani “aggression” in opposition to Karabakh.
“On September 19, Azerbaijan unleashed one other large-scale aggression in opposition to the individuals of Nagorno-Karabakh, aiming to finish its coverage of ethnic cleaning,” the overseas ministry mentioned.
It mentioned Russian peacekeepers stationed within the area ought to “take clear and unequivocal steps to cease Azerbaijan’s aggression.”
A separatist group based mostly in Armenia mentioned on social media that “Stepanakert and different cities and villages are beneath intensive hearth,” accusing Azerbaijan of launching a “large-scale army offensive.”
Azerbaijan justified the mission, citing “systematic” shelling by Armenian-backed forces and accusing them of finishing up “reconnaissance actions” and fortifying defensive positions.
“There may be additionally the strengthening of fight positions with personnel, armoured autos, artillery and different weapons,” Azerbaijan mentioned, accusing separatists of “a excessive degree of fight readiness.”
Regional energy brokers Russia and Turkey, which oversee a fragile peacekeeping mission in Nagorno-Karabakh, had been knowledgeable about Azerbaijan’s army actions in Karabakh, Baku mentioned.
Moscow urged the events to the battle to respect a peace accord and finish the “bloodshed.”
Russian overseas ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova mentioned it was given “minutes” discover of the beginning of Azerbaijan’s operation.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov mentioned Russia was “involved” over the “sharp escalation” in Karabakh and was working to get the 2 nations to barter.
The preventing got here simply hours after Azerbaijan mentioned 4 law enforcement officials and two civilians had been killed in mine blasts in Nagorno-Karabakh, with authorities blaming separatists.
The deaths at daybreak got here after Armenian separatists mentioned that they had reached an settlement with Azerbaijani authorities to renew help deliveries to Karabakh.
Baku’s safety companies mentioned two civilians had died within the district of Khojavend and 4 law enforcement officials had been killed in one other mine explosion en path to the positioning.
Their automobile hit “a mine laid on a tunnel highway beneath building by unlawful Armenian armed teams,” a press release mentioned.
Azerbaijan mentioned the incident passed off “within the zone of short-term deployment of the Russian peacekeeping contingent,” despatched by Moscow in 2020 as a part of a ceasefire deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan mentioned the law enforcement officials had been killed on the highway to Azerbaijani-controlled Shusha, recaptured from separatists in 2020.
Within the six-week 2020 struggle, Azerbaijan regained management of key areas of Karabakh, together with the culturally revered city of Shusha.
However different elements of the area, together with the primary metropolis of Stepanakert, stay beneath the management of Armenian separatists.
Azerbaijan mentioned the highway to Shusha was constructed after it captured pockets of land from Armenia in 2020.
“In the course of the building of the highway, the realm alongside the route was cleared of mines,” Baku mentioned.
Karabakh is closely mined. During the last three many years, tons of of Azerbaijanis have been wounded or killed by landmines laid by Armenian forces.
Azerbaijan mentioned Tuesday greater than 300 of its nationals have been wounded or killed by mines since 2020.
Each Azerbaijani and Armenian militaries used them throughout a bloody battle within the early Nineteen Nineties.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has mentioned that landmines had been the primary impediment impeding the return of displaced individuals to territories retaken from Armenian separatists in 2020.