The disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory was the subject of a severe bombardment, according to Armenian media and local officials, which prompted Azerbaijan’s military ministry to announce the start of a “anti-terrorist” campaign.
In the previous three decades, Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave of ethnic Armenians that is regarded as being a part of Azerbaijan, has been the root of two wars between the neighbors, the most recent of which took place in 2020.
After Azerbaijani troops blockedaded the Lachin corridor in December, cutting off the sole road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia and blocking the import of food for its estimated 120,000 residents, tensions in the area have been building for months.
According to a statement released by the Azerbaijani defense ministry on Tuesday, “local anti-terrorist activities” have been started to “suppress large-scale provocations in the Karabakh economic region” and “to disarm and secure the withdrawal of Armenia’s armed forces formations from our territories.”
The ministry asserted that Armenian forces had been “systematically shelling” its army, and that its response was intended to “neutralize their military infrastructure” and “ultimately restore the constitutional order of the Republic of Azerbaijan.”
“Only legitimate military targets are being incapacitated,” it continued.
According to the report, Armenia had strengthened its defenses, “bringing units to a high level of combat readiness,” and mines had been sown in previously demined areas. The ministry added that two people were killed after an Azeri vehicle hit a mine.
In response to Azerbaijan’s assertions that Armenian forces had fired on Azeri combat outposts, the military ministry of Armenia posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, to refute the claims.
Stepanakert City was reportedly subject to intense Azerbaijani bombing, and mobile and internet connections had been cut off, according to the Armenian news agency Armenpress.
The report was echoed in a statement from Artsakh, the name for Nagorno-Karabakh in Armenia.
“Recently, the Azerbaijani side has been preparing the ground for massive action against Artsakh by carrying out daily troop movements and stockpiling of various weaponry, which were followed by intensive information and propaganda activities.
“We are now witnessing how Azerbaijan is moving toward the physical destruction of the civilian population and the destruction of civilian objects in order to implement its policy of genocide.”
CNN has been unable to confirm the assertions made by either side of the dispute.
Nikol Pashinyan, the prime minister of Armenia, warned of a potential escalation earlier this month by claiming that Azerbaijan has placed forces on the border with Armenia and the line separating it from Nagorno-Karabakh.
The military-political climate in our region has substantially deteriorated during the last week, according to Pashinyan. The cause is that Azerbaijan has been building up its military force at the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the Nagorno-Karabakh contact line for a number of days.
The last conflict lasted 44 days and resulted in a crushing loss for the de facto Nagorno-Karabakh state supported by the government of Armenia. Russia, a longtime ally of Armenia who has also recently deepened relations with Azerbaijan, assisted in putting an end to the conflict by brokering a truce.
The agreement called for the deployment of some 2,000 Russian peacekeepers to Nagorno-Karabakh to protect the Lachin corridor.
The sudden spike in tension in the region frightened the Russian Foreign Ministry to its core.
According to spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry Maria Zakharova, “(the) Russian side urges the disputing parties to stop the bloodshed, immediately cease hostilities, and return to the path of political and diplomatic settlement.”
“The Russian peacekeeping force is still performing its duties in the current situation…In order to achieve a truce and resume the greatest level of implementation of the aforementioned trilateral agreements, the command of the Russian peacekeeping mission is in frequent contact with officials from Azerbaijan and the Armenians of Karabakh.