Armenian separatist forces in Nagorno-Karabakh have reportedly agreed to a ceasefire just a day after Azerbaijan launched intense military attacks to take control of the enclave.
The ceasefire agreement proposed by Russian peacekeepers means that separatist forces will have to disband and remove all heavy weapons, the Interfax news agency reports.
It comes after fears grew yesterday that Azerbaijan’s attacks, which it said were part of an “anti-terror operation”, could cause tensions to erupt into full-scale war.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry announced the start of the operation hours after four soldiers and two civilians were killed in landmine explosions in the region between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Azerbaijan insisted that ‘oHowever, only “legitimate military targets” were being “incapacitated.” Ethnic Armenian officials in Nagorno-Karabakh said Stepanakert and other villages had come under “intense shelling,” killing dozens and wounding hundreds.
In this Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020 file photo, an ethnic Armenian soldier stands guard next to the Nagorno-Karabakh flag on the hilltop near Charektar in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh at a new border with Kalbajar district handed over to Azerbaijan.
Yesterday it was reported that drone attacks and artillery shells hit areas around Stepanakert.
Ethnic Armenians in the area have criticized world powers for standing idly by and failing to act as hostilities raged, claiming civilians were under threat.
Nagorno-Karabakh human rights defender Geghan Stepanyan said 32 people, including seven civilians, were killed and more than 200 injured.
Stepanyan earlier said one child was among the dead and 11 children among the injured.
Separatist forces on the ground said Azerbaijan had broken its lines and seized several strategic heights and road junctions.
The self-styled ‘Republic of Artsakh’ said that in such circumstances it had no choice but to cease hostilities from 1:00 p.m. local time on Wednesday.
“The authorities of the Republic of Artsakh accept the proposal of the command of the Russian peacekeeping contingent to cease fire,” he said.
“With the mediation of the command of the Russian peacekeeping contingent stationed in Nagorno-Karabakh, an agreement was reached on the complete cessation of hostilities from 1:00 p.m. on September 20, 2023.”
Russia evacuated more than 2,000 civilians from the most dangerous areas of Nagorno-Karabakh, the TASS news agency reported, citing Moscow’s Defense Ministry.
Nagorno-Karabakh shared an image it said shows damaged apartment buildings in Stepanakert following Azerbaijan’s offensive.
Russia evacuated more than 2,000 civilians from the most dangerous areas of Nagorno-Karabakh, TASS news agency reports
‘All evacuated residents are provided with temporary accommodation and hot food. In addition, doctors, specialists from the special medical detachment, provided assistance to the injured residents,” the ministry reported.
Azerbaijan began its operation against Nagorno-Karabakh on Tuesday after some of its troops were killed in what Baku said were attacks from the mountainous region, which Azerbaijan had blockaded for nine months.
Talks between Azerbaijani officials and the breakaway region’s ethnic Armenian authorities on their “reintegration” into Azerbaijan are scheduled for Thursday in the Azerbaijani town of Yevlakh.
Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.
The enclave and significant surrounding territories had been under ethnic Armenian control since the end of a separatist war in 1994, but Azerbaijan recaptured the territories and parts of Nagorno-Karabakh during fighting in 2020.
That ended with an armistice that placed Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh.
However, Azerbaijan alleges that Armenia has since smuggled weapons. The claims caused a blockade of the highway connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia, causing shortages of food and medicine.
Thousands of protesters gathered in the center of Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, on Tuesday, blocking streets and demanding that authorities defend Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. Some clashed with police, who reportedly used stun grenades.
A total of 34 people (16 police officers and 18 civilians) were injured in the clashes, Armenia’s Health Ministry said. About half of them are still receiving medical assistance, the ministry said.
This is breaking news, there will be more to follow…