Երեքշաբթի , 19 Հունվարի 2021

Stepanakert Targeted Again as Harutyunyan Heads for the Frontline on the Seventh Day of Fighting – Armenian Weekly

Stepanakert Targeted Again as Harutyunyan Heads for the Frontline on the Seventh Day of Fighting – Armenian Weekly

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Artsakh President Arayik Harutunyan has joined his countrymen on the frontline as heavy fighting continues for the seventh day along the Artsakh-Azerbaijani Line of Contact. “With the Special Forces Units, I am off to the frontline to fight my share of war, as I am more needed on the frontline than behind-the-line,” announced Harutyunyan, who also served in the Artsakh Liberation War back in 1992. “Our boys brilliantly carry out the combat tasks set before them. We stand firmly in the positions of the sacred mission of defending the homeland,” he stated.

Harutunyan’s decision to take on a more active role came amid a new large-scale offensive by Azeri forces using artillery and armed vehicles Saturday evening. After six to seven hours of intense fighting, the Armenian military successfully stalled the advance, with a significant number of casualties on the Azerbaijani side, according to Armenian officials. Armenian Ministry of Defense Representative Artsrun Hovhannisyan stated during an evening press briefing that the Armenian army destroyed 45 armored vehicles, 10 drones, three aircraft and one helicopter. According to the most recent data gathered by the Armenian government, Azerbaijan’s military has lost 123 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), 14 helicopters, 355 armored vehicles, 14 planes and four Smerch multiple rocket launchers. Armenian officials say there has been a total of 2,745 casualties among Azerbaijani personnel since the beginning of fighting. Armenia’s Armed Forces have lost 208 servicemen. 

Meanwhile, Artsakh’s capital Stepanakert came under heavy shelling again for a second day in a row as Azerbaijan launched a rocket in the direction of the city on Saturday evening. The electricity network building of Stepanakert was damaged, according to Artsakh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, leaving the city without power. Hovhannisyan tweeted that the Azerbaijani army is deploying LAR-160 cluster munitions against civilian populations in Artsakh. The number of civilian casualties is unclear. 

In a televised address to the nation, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that an Armenian victory is inevitable at the end of a struggle he termed as the ‘new Sardarabad.’ He asserted that the objective of the Turkish-Azerbaijani terrorist attacks is not to resolve a military-political issue or territorial dispute, stating, “Their objective is the Armenian people. Their objective is to continue their genocidal policy. And they have placed before them the issue of continuing the Armenian Genocide today. But today, here, I want to say the Armenians, the citizens of the Republic of Armenia, the citizens of the Republic of Artsakh are not travelers on the road to Der Zor. Today, more than ever, we are bound to our identity, our homeland, the indestructible conviction to protect our rights.”

In an official statement, Artsakh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs proclaimed that the only effective mechanism to ensure the rights of the citizens of Artsakh to life and peaceful development and to restore peace and security in the region is the international recognition of the Republic of Artsakh. 

An information war is also at hand. The Armenian National Security Service has stressed vigilance in response to frequent cases of misinformation that is being disseminated by Azerbaijan and Turkey on social media accounts created under Armenian names. This includes a fake Facebook page for the Republic of Armenia Public Television titled Armenian Soldier.

Meantime, foreign leaders continue to call for a ceasefire by means of intervention on behalf of the European Union (EU). Two dozen European parliamentary members have asked the President of the European Council for concrete steps in exerting “all necessary pressure on the government of Azerbaijan to stop hostilities and withdraw its troops” and “to prepare a list imposing financial sanctions to Azerbaijan.” In her address to the EU, Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili said, “If the neighborhood matters, and I am sure it does, since our stability and peace is also in the interest of the EU, it must also use its resources to achieve peace and de-escalation of this situation.” She stressed that Tbilisi can serve as a site for holding negotiations.  

In light of mounting evidence that Turkey has recruited Syrian mercenaries to fight alongside Azerbaijani soldiers, the Syrian government called for a peaceful settlement of the conflict and warned against blatant Turkish interference, according to the Syrian Arab News Agency. In a statement released by the Syrian Foreign and Expatriates Ministry, the Syrian government “calls on the Azerbaijani government to be careful not to fall into the trap of the Turkish plan and to respond to the Armenian initiatives that call for calm dialogue.”

The US State Department, for its part, issued a travel warning to Azerbaijan on Saturday over terrorism concerns. Travelers are being cautioned to stay away from the Line of Contact. “The US government is unable to provide emergency services to US citizens in Nagorno-Karabakh as US government employees are restricted from travelling there,” the advisory states. 

Lillian Avedian is a journalist based in Los Angeles, California. She has written for the Daily Californian, Hetq and the Armenian Weekly, covering topics ranging from the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Armenia to the Armenian feminist movement on Instagram. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley with a Bachelor of Arts in Peace and Conflict Studies and a Bachelor of Arts in Armenian Studies, and applies her human rights expertise to uncover silenced narratives. When she is not on the hunt for a story, Lillian enjoys writing poetry and attending quarantine “Zoom-ba” classes.

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October 3, 2020 at 06:52PM

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