Nagorno-Karabakh: several civilians killed in clashes

Fighting continues in Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenian separatist forces and the Azerbaijani army. Several civilian casualties are to be deplored in both camps. “Armed fighting of varying degrees of intensity which started overnight (Sunday to Monday) continues to rage throughout” the line of contact, said Chouchane Stepanian, a spokeswoman for the Armenian ministry of Defense. The Karabakh separatists’ foreign ministry said that in the morning their capital, Stepanakert, populated by 50,000 inhabitants, was targeted by “intensive rocket fire”.

The day before, on both sides of the front, artillery fire had already targeted towns, in particular Stepanakert and its neighbor Choucha, and in Azerbaijan: Gandja, the country’s second city 60 km from the contact line, or Beylagan. . According to official reports, these bombings, including rockets, killed four residents of the self-proclaimed republic, and five in Azerbaijan. As well as many injured. As usual since the resumption of conflict on September 27, the belligerents accuse each other of deliberately targeting civilians, broadcasting images of destroyed homes or unexploded missiles planted in facades.

Russia worried

Sunday evening, faced with the violence of the bombings affecting inhabited areas, Russia was worried about this turning point. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed his concern to his Armenian counterpart at “the increase in the number of victims among the civilian population”. He reiterated the call of Russia, the main regional power, for “a ceasefire as soon as possible”. The International Committee of the Red Cross has also condemned “indiscriminate bombing”. Hundreds of homes and key infrastructure like hospitals and schools have been destroyed or damaged, according to the ICRC.

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The separatists, supported politically and militarily by Armenia, and the Azerbaijanis have given, on the eve of a ninth day of fighting, no sign of wanting to hear the calls for a truce from most of the international community . Nagorny Karabakh, mostly populated by Armenians, seceded from Azerbaijan after the fall of the USSR, leading to a war in the early 1990s that left 30,000 dead. The front has been almost frozen there since despite regular clashes. The two camps accuse each other of the resumption of hostilities, a crisis among the most serious, if not the most serious, since the cease-fire of 1994, raising fears of an open war between the two ex-Soviet countries.

Several thousand soldiers killed?

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, in a televised address to the nation on Sunday proclaimed that the offensive would continue until his opponent leaves “our territories”, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian “apologizes” and proclaims that ” Karabakh is not Armenia ”. Baku claims a number of military successes on the ground, including the capture of several towns and villages. But on the Armenian side, we reject these claims and we also show our determination. “Having failed to win on the battlefield, the Azerbaijani side proclaims imaginary victories and spreads ‘fake news’ about Armenian bombings of Azerbaijani inhabited areas,” denounced the Armenian Foreign Ministry.

The death toll – still very partial, Baku not communicating its military losses – stands at 251: 209 separatist fighters, 18 Karabakh civilians and 24 Azerbaijani civilians. But each side claims to have killed 2,000 to 3,000 enemy soldiers. An escalation of the conflict could have unforeseeable consequences, several powers competing in the region: Russia, the traditional regional arbiter, Turkey, allied with Azerbaijan, or even Iran. The Turks are already accused of adding fuel to the fire by encouraging Baku to go on the military offensive and are strongly suspected of having deployed pro-Turkish Syrian mercenaries in Karabakh.

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