Armenian sources claimed that three journalists, including two foreign nationals, were injured on Thursday, October 8, in an Azeri artillery strike on the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in the Nagorno-Karabakh region town of Shusha. The group, a Russian reporter, an unidentified foreign correspondent, and a local journalist were reportedly injured whilst reporting on damage to the cathedral from shell fire earlier on Thursday when the site was allegedly hit by a second artillery strike. However, the extent of their injuries was not immediately clear. Azeri officials had earlier denied allegations that the cathedral had been targeted, stating that their forces were forbidden from firing on historical, cultural, and religious buildings.
More than 300 people are reported to have been killed since the outbreak of hostilities in the Nagorno-Karabakh region on September 27, including at least 280 Nagorno-Karabakh-based fighters and 19 civilians in the breakaway region. The Azeri government has not released any figures on its military casualties, but at least 28 Azeri civilians are reported to have been killed in artillery strikes and other attacks.
Further clashes in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh region are highly likely over the near term. Clashes along the length of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border outside the Nagorno-Karabakh region cannot be ruled out. A heightened security presence and disruptions to transportation are expected.
The latest round of hostilities erupted on September 27, when Azerbaijani forces reportedly carried out strikes on settlements in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, including the regional capital Stepanakert. Following retaliatory attacks by separatist forces, Azerbaijan launched what it claims to be a 'counter-offensive' in response. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have made extensive use of heavy weapons during the clashes, including artillery and loitering munitions, and released footage claiming to show the destruction of enemy armored vehicles and installations. A state of war, martial law, and mobilization have been declared in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh.
On October 1, the leaders of France, Russia, and the US, the co-chairs of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is dedicated to mediating the conflict, called for a ceasefire and a return to negotiations. Armenia responded by stating that it was prepared to work with the OCSE to renew the ceasefire, but Azeri authorities have not responded and have previously stated that Armenia must withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh to avoid further escalation.
Armenia and neighboring Azerbaijan have a long-standing dispute over the possession of Nagorno-Karabakh, home to some 150,000 inhabitants (mostly ethnic Armenians) and located in the west of Azerbaijan. This issue has fueled tensions between the two countries since 1988; with some 30,000 people being killed in fighting from 1990 to 1994. The two countries declared another ceasefire in April 2016 after the region experienced four days of violent clashes that left hundreds dead.
Tensions between the two countries remain high and each side frequently accuses the other of violating the ceasefire agreement.
Western governments generally advise their citizens against all travel to Nagorno-Karabakh and the Azerbaijan-Armenia border. Those in Armenia are advised to monitor developments and adhere to instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments.
Copyright and Disclaimer