Creeping Occupation

9 m.   |  2022-05-06
Azerbaijan keeps on violating the Trilateral Statement

S ince February 5, 2022 Azerbaijani violations in Artsakh has sharply increased compared to the passing months. During the period prior to February 24, firearms violations had been reported towards peaceful settlements. In some cases, shelling damaged the property belonging to the civilians.

No active violations of ceasefire have been reported since Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine until March 7, however the Azerbaijani side has been carrying out psychological pressure through the use of force.

Since February 24, Azerbaijani armed forces alongside the violations began using loudspeakers demanding the villagers to stop the agricultural activities and to leave the area, threatening to use force if they refuse to comply.

The intensity of ceasefire violations has sharply increased since March 7. This time the caliber of the arms used has changed. In particular, during the period between March 7-12, the Azerbaijan side used a 60-mm mortar in various regions of Artsakh, firing a total of 57 shells.

On March 10, Suren Baghryan, a resident of Khramort village, born in 1971, suffered shrapnel wounds because of the mortar explosion by the Azerbaijani side. At the same time the violations from firearms continue. Azerbaijani armed forces target residential houses and other civilian infrastructure.

Alongside the escalation of the situation, the gas supply to the Republic of Artsakh was stopped on the night of March 7-8, because of the gas pipeline damage entering to Artsakh from the Republic of Armenia. The gas pipeline was damaged in the territory of Artsakh, near Shushi, occupied by Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani side does not allow the restoration until March 18.  

According to the Artsakh Information Headquarters, Azerbaijan restored the gas pipeline on March 18, however the gas supply was stopped again on March 20. According to Artsakh sources, after restoring the gas pipeline, the Azerbaijani side installed a valve on it, thus creating a lever for further pressure on Artsakh and Armenia.

Continuously escalating the situation in Artsakh since the end of February, Azerbaijan resorted to the large-scale aggression in the direction of Askeran region, in the end of March, grossly violating the Trilateral Statement of November 9-10, 2020.

On March 24, Azerbaijani forces, once again violating the line of contact established by the Trilateral Statement, invaded Parukh village in the Askeran region, which is under the zone of responsibility of the Russian peacekeeping contingent, as well as adjacent territories, including the Karaglukh height, located between the villages of Khramort and Parukh.    

Despite the fact that the above-mentioned territories of the Republic of Artsakh are under the control of the Russian peacekeeping contingent, Azerbaijan still refuses to withdraw its troops from the occupied territories.

Occupation of Parukh

O n March 25, Azerbaijani forces used large-caliber arms and combat UAVs (Bayraktar TB-2) in the direction of the NKR Defense Army ‘s positions. According to the Artsakh Defense Army, 3 servicemen of the Defense Army were killed and 14 were injured as a result of the Azerbaijani aggression. According to the information released by the Artsakh Defense Army on March 25, during the hostilities, the Azerbaijani side had at least 5 personnel killed. The Azerbaijani side didn’t report any casualties.   

The information released by the Russian Defense Ministry and the Russian Foreign Ministry on March 26, emphasize that the Azerbaijani side has violated the trilateral agreement and invaded the zone of responsibility of the Russian peacekeeping contingent [1,2].

In response, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry called these statements “biased” and “untrue”.

According to the new report made on March 27, the Russian Defense Ministry stated that the Azerbaijani armed forces withdrew from the territory of the village of Parukh. It should be noted that although the Russian peacekeeping forces were deployed in the residential part of the village, Azerbaijan didn’t fully comply with the demand of the Russian contingent and didn’t withdraw its troops from the adjacent positions.

On March 31, the Prime Minister of Armenia N. Pashinyan stated, that Azerbaijan invaded the village of Parikh and its adjacent areas as a result of the violation of the a  mirror-way withdrawal of the troops. In particular, it was noted that an agreement had been reached between Azerbaijan and Artsakh on the withdrawal of troops from Parukh-Khramort section. However, after the withdrawal of the servicemen of the Defense Army from some of the positions, Azerbaijan occupied several positions located in that area and invaded Parukh, violating the line of contact. 

On April 5, one of the pro-governmental Azerbaijani propaganda websites published a video, showing the positions that the Azerbaijani forces had actually occupied. Due to the localization of the area captured on the video, it turned out that the Azerbaijani side is still deployed in several positions adjacent to the village and in the area between Parukh and Khramort villages, at least on part of the Karaglukh height.

In his speech made on April 15, Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev, referring to the incident in Parukh, noted that the Khachen reservoir is located near the village of Parukh and the Armenian military positions allegedly “posed a threat” for the use of the reservoir. Actually, Azerbaijani president reaffirms, that the operation of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces was pre-planned and organized. This, in turn, shows that Azerbaijan can further actively violate the trilateral statement of November 10, 2020, thus “explaining” its actions by “solving” various issues.

Thus, as a result of the Azerbaijani actions, the civilians of Parukh were forced to leave the village, because of the impossibility of living there. As a result of the Azerbaijani activities, more than 400 peaceful civilians, including women, children and the elderly were displaced. Some of the IDPs live with the relatives and friends, while others are provided with temporary housing by the Artsakh Government.

Several other settlements of the Askeran region are under a direct attack as a result of the capture of these heights. From the heigh of Karaglukh, Khramort village is also under a direct attack, part of the population of which was also displaced for security reasons.

Information campaign against Russian peacekeepers

S ince the second week of March 2022, materials targeting the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Artsakh, in particular, the contingent’s commander, began to be actively published in Azerbaijani media, including the government media.    

In parallel to the ceasefire violations in Artsakh, particularly in Khramort, Azerbaijani media began a campaign against A. Volkov, the commander of the Russian peacekeeping contingent.

Publications pointedly targeted at Russian peacekeepers in Artsakh and personally against the contingent’s commander Volkov began actively spread in Azerbaijani media after the fact when the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry issued a statement on March 7, noting that “the use of the term "Nagorno-Karabakh" in the statement of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation in the context on humanitarian aid sent to Ukraine is unacceptable”. Earlier, the Azerbaijani pro-government website had published an article titled “A peacekeeper, who is unable to maintain a ceasefire: Volkov follows in the footsteps of Volsky”, thus paving the way for an information campaign against the Russian peacekeeping mission in Karabakh. In the materials published against Andrei Volkov and Russian peacekeepers published since March 7, the following main theses are being exaggerated:

  • Andrei Volkov together with Armenian “separatists” set up a business in Khramort village and owns vineyards.
  • Volkov is known for his pro-Armenian stance and has a personal hostility towards Azerbaijanis. This is related to the incident taken place in the villages of Hin Tagher and Khtsaberd, back in December 2020, when Azerbaijanis humiliated Volkov. 
  • Volkov allegedly arms the Armenians, thus allowing violations of ceasefire.
  • Peacekeepers allegedly turn a blind eye on ceasefire violations by Armenians.
  • If the Russian peacekeeping mission keeps on supporting the Armenian side, it is probable, that the Azerbaijani army will have to take tougher and more serios steps.
  • Volkov allegedly continues the work of the Russian military: to provide assistance to Armenians in this region. 
  • The peacekeeping contingent is allegedly unable to control the situation.

The information campaign against A. Volkov and the Russian peacekeeping contingent was carried out by the official and pro-governmental media in Azerbaijan. The materials targeted against Russian peacekeepers were also published in 2021, however the number of such articles increased especially during the period between February-March of 2022. The materials published during that period, emphasized that the peacekeepers are allegedly unable to prevent the violations of the ceasefire.

Comparing the above-mentioned propaganda activities with the aggressive actions of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces in Artsakh on the same days, we can conclude, that thus Azerbaijan was preparing the ground for the aggression on March 24-25. Azerbaijani activities show, that before making any kind of aggression, it tries to shift the blame on the Armed Forces of Artsakh or Armenia, as well as on the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Artsakh.