Heavy fighting has broken out between Azerbaijan and Armenia after Azerbaijan appeared to launch a full-scale attack on Armenian territory, sparking a crisis that poses a potentially serious challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Armenia has accused Azerbaijan of using heavy artillery, mortars and drones to target its troops, as well as towns along its border with the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh from the early hours on Tuesday, alleging that at least 49 Armenian soldiers were killed.
The two sides accused each other of carrying out the fighting, with Azerbaijan accusing Armenia of launching a “large-scale provocation”.
Russia said it negotiated a ceasefire to end the violence on Tuesday night, but Armenia said some fighting was continuing, although less intensely. Both sides accused the other’s forces of firing artillery along the border on Tuesday night.
The fighting is the worst since the two nations fought a bloody war in 2020, in which tens of thousands of civilians were displaced and thousands of soldiers killed, after Azerbaijan launched an offensive to retake the enclave that has been the subject of a decades-long conflict. .
This war ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire, after Azerbaijan defeated Armenia and forced it to cede substantial parts of Nagorno-Karabakh. Russia is in a security alliance with Armenia and has deployed hundreds of troops there as peacekeepers to monitor the deal and enforce the lines separating the parties in the enclave.
But with Russia now struggling in Ukraine, Azerbaijan may seek to take advantage of Moscow’s difficulties to force Armenia into further concessions.
Armenia has accused Azerbaijan of firing on several towns and villages in its border area since Monday, releasing a video purporting to show dozens of Azerbaijani soldiers trying to advance. Azerbaijan claimed its forces began firing after its infrastructure was the first to be attacked, alleging Armenian military movements over the past month suggest preparations for a “full-scale military provocation”. Armenia said the claims could be intended as a pretext for military action.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian called on Russia and a Moscow-led security bloc of former Soviet countries to come to his aid, triggering a mutual assistance pact. Pashinian spoke by phone with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu on Tuesday, during which they agreed to “take necessary measures to stabilize the situation”, according to the Armenian Defense Ministry.
The crisis is a challenge for the Kremlin, due to Ukraine’s spectacular counter-offensive which routed Russian forces in its northeast this week and as Russia lacks the troops needed for a major action. Failure of the deal would embarrass Russia and undermine its position as the main power broker in the region.
The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed “extreme concern” over the fighting and urged both sides to refrain from any further escalation. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was working “intensively” to resolve the situation and that Putin was personally involved.
The Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Moscow-led security bloc that Armenia has appealed to, held an emergency session in response on Tuesday. The bloc agreed that its general secretary should visit the conflict zone and that a working group should be set up to study the situation, the Belarusian presidential press office told Russian news service Interfax.
The United States and the European Union have also called for an urgent end to the fighting. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he spoke by phone on Tuesday with Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilhar Aliyev, calling on them both to withdraw from a new conflict.
Blinken told reporters it would be positive if Russia were able to help stop the violence.
“If Russia can actually use its own influence, for good, which is to calm the waters, end the violence and urge people to engage in good faith in building peace, that would be a positive thing,” Blinken said during a visit. at Purdue University in Indiana.