Karabakh Fighting (April, 2016)

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On the night of April 1, 2016, fighting broke out on the border of the Republic of Mountainous Karabakh and Azerbaijan. This is a timeline of events.

Background

The Karabakh War ended in 1994 with a cease fire. Over 20 years of peace talks have been fruitless, although it seems that twice the sides almost came to an agreement. An increase in cease-fire violations in recent years has led to an OSCE proposal to install devices along the front lines which would pinpoint which side border violations originate from, in order to discourage violations. Azerbaijan has consistently refused to allow this for the past two years[1], while Armenians have welcomed the proposal from the beginning.

April 1

  • Shelling begins in the evening. Both sides blame each other.

April 2

  • Azerbaijani troops attack Armenian positions in Karabakh in the morning. "the Defense Ministry in Baku said its frontline troops launched the morning offensive in response to Armenian shelling of Azerbaijani positions and villages close to “the line of contact” around Karabakh."
  • On Saturday morning, an 11-year-old Karabakh Armenian boy was killed and two other children wounded when Azerbaijani rockets hit their village in Karabakh’s southeastern Martuni district.
  • News reports from Baku, said one resident of an Azerbaijani village just northeast of Karabakh was killed and another wounded by Armenian artillery fire.
  • Azerbaijan claimed that the Azerbaijani army occupied one Karabakh village and hilltops overlooking another. Baku said it took under its control several strategic points on the border, from which villages on the Azeri side could be threatened by Armenian forces[2].
  • A senior Karabakh official, Artur Aghabekian, flatly denied that claim (bullet point above). “That is definitely disinformation,” Aghabekian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “The Armenian Defense Ministry officially states that information distributed by Azeri media that Azerbaijani armed forces allegedly captured several settlements on the territory of the Nagorno-Karabakh region and that losses of the Armenian side amount to dozens in military hardware and hundreds in manpower is blatant disinformation,” the ministry said in a statement.[3]
  • Karabakh admits later that a strategic height had been taken when they announce that they have recaptured it. In a statement issued on Sunday morning, the Karabakh army said its troops won back a “tactically important” position near the northern village of Talish. “The enemy was pushed back, suffering considerable losses,” it claimed. “Two soldiers from the Karabakh side were wounded during the hostilities.” Meanwhile the Azerbaijani military confirmed later in the day that “Armenia tried to regain positions lost by it” but claimed to have thwarted those attempts. “The enemy also subjected settlements and other civilian facilities near the line of contact to intensive shelling,” it said.
  • Armenians admitted to losses of 18 soldiers with 35 wounded. The spokesman for the Karabakh army, Senor Hasratian, said that the Armenian side has lost only one tank and destroyed 14 Azerbaijani tanks since the Azerbaijani army began its offensive on Saturday morning. Meanwhile Azerbaijan claimed it destroyed “six Armenian tanks, 15 artillery pieces, several bunkers and over 100 enemy soldiers.”
  • Azerbaijan admitted to losses of 12 soldiers. They also admitted to the loss of a helicopter and a tank which they said hit a mine. Militias in the unrecognized republic of Nagorny-Karabakh, the focal point of the conflict, claimed they shot down two Azeri helicopter gunboats and two drones, and destroyed at least two tanks. Azerbaijan confirmed losing one helicopter and one tank as well as 12 soldiers[4]. Armenians released footage of one downed helicopter, and photos of a drone. They also claimed over a hundred Azerbaijani casualties.
  • The military authorities in Stepanakert began reinforcing their frontline troops on Saturday night by deploying heavy artillery and calling up hundreds of reservists. Hundreds of other Armenians, most of them veterans of the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan, reportedly headed to the frontline from Armenia overnight.

April 3

  • Armenians release photos (Photolure and HETQ) of 3 elderly Armenians unable to flee the Azeri troops which advanced on their home, which the Armenians recaptured. The eldery Armenians had been killed, with ears cut off. Presumably in Talish or nearby. The Karabakh Presidential Spokesman David Babayan said that an "Azeri subversive unit infiltrated into Talish, entered an ordinary house, where elderly people lived, tortured and killed them."[5]
  • Azerbaijan decided to “unilaterally suspend its counteroffensive and retaliatory measures against the enemy.” “If the Armed Forces of Armenia do not end their provocative actions … the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan will resume offensive operations using all weapons at their disposal,” it said. rmenia’s Defense Ministry swiftly dismissed the announcement as an “information trick,” while the Karabakh army called in “disinformation” and “an imitation of ceasefire.” Karabakh’s Armenian-backed military made clear at the same time that it is ready to “discuss” the proposed truce “in the context of the restoration of the previous positions” of the two warring sides[6].
  • The army said that even after Baku’s statement Azerbaijani troops continued to shell not only Karabakh Armenian positions but also civilians. In particular, it said, they fired on the northeastern Karabakh town of Martakert from Grad multiple-launch rocket systems and 152-milimeter howitzers.

April 4

  • Three Azeri servicemen were killed in fresh fighting with Armenian-backed separatists over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region on Monday, Azerbaijan's Defence Ministry said[7].
  • Armenian forces regained control of more positions that had been seized by Azerbaijan after the fighting began, Artsrun Hovhannisyan, spokesman for Armenia’s Defense Ministry, said on Facebook early Monday[8]. Azerbaijan didn’t lose any military positions to Armenian forces, the APA news service reported Monday, citing Defense Ministry spokesman Vaqif Darghali[9].
  • The separatist military said an Azeri army unit was "encircled and fully destroyed on the southern flank of the front", Armenian Defence Ministry spokesman Artsrun Hovhannesyan wrote on his Facebook page.
  • Azerbaijan said it had struck a separatist command point, causing several casualties.
  • Karabakh Presidential Spokesman David Babayan says multiple Azeri incursion attempts were foiled on Monday. That dozens of casualties were suffered by the Azeris, plus the loss of 5 T-90 tanks. Says that over 2 dozen Azeri tanks have been destroyed so far.
  • Armenian artillerymen neutralized an Azerbaijani TOS-1A Solntsepyok multiple rocket launcher; also, an unmanned aerial vehicle was downed by air defense units, the Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman said[10].
  • Accounts from both sides indicated the fighting was not at the same level of ferocity as at its peak on Saturday, but there was still large-calibre fire being exchanged.
  • The Armenian defence ministry reported that an Azeri drone had attacked a bus carrying Armenian "volunteers" to Martakert district, killing five people[11].
  • Azerbaijan has threatened a "major attack" on the capital of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, amid clashes with ethnic Armenian separatists. Defence Minister Zakir Hasanov said troops had been instructed to target Stepanakert if the separatists did "not stop shelling our settlements"[12]
  • Viktor Arustamyan, the chief of the operations division for separatist forces, said the fighting had claimed the lives of 20 Armenian troops and wounded another 72. Five civilians were killed, he added. The separatists claimed 300 Azeri troops had been killed in the fighting, and that 18 Azeri tanks had been destroyed. Two Azeri helicopters and six drones had been downed, they added. The Armenians said they had lost seven tanks[13].
  • The Azeri government said 170 Armenian soldiers were killed and 12 armored vehicles were destroyed in the fighting, Interfax reported the Azeri Defense Ministry as saying[14].
  • Armenia on Monday threatened to formally recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state[15].
  • Sarkisian said the OSCE must also bolster the ceasefire regime by increasing the number of his field observers deployed in the conflict zone and “urgently” introducing a mechanism for investigations of ceasefire violations. Azerbaijan has opposed such investigations favored by the United States, Russia and France, the three nations co-heading the OSCE’s Minsk Group on Karabakh[16].
  • “I must point out here that I have repeatedly stated that if hostilities continue and become large-scale, the Republic of Armenia will recognize Karabakh’s independence,” the Armenian president said in that regard[17].

April 5

  • Minsk Group of negotiators in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict scheduled to meet on April 5 in Vienna to discuss the outbreak of violence in the territory between Azerbaijan and Armenian-backed separatists.
  • Video of Harop drone appears, which apparently targeted a bus full of “Armenian volunteers,” killing seven, Artsrun Hovhannisyan, a spokesman for Armenia’s Defense Ministry[18].
  • Fighting continues into the morning.
  • As of noon, local time, the armed forces of Artsakh and Azerbaijan have agreed to put a halt to the fighting along the line of Contact given that Minsk Group negotiations are underway in Vienna. (Note: As of 8:30 p.m. Yerevan time, the ceasefire seems to be holding).[19]
  • It was announced that the group’s U.S., Russian and French co-chairs will visit Yerevan and Baku later this week[20].

April 7

  • The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, will travel to Azerbaijan’s capital Baku on Thursday while the prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, is due in Armenia’s Yerevan, in a further attempt to allay the tensions.

Losses

Human life

The Defense Ministry in Baku said in the morning that 16 more Azerbaijani soldiers were killed in fierce clashes on the Karabakh frontline on Monday and Sunday. It claimed to have suffered 12 combat deaths at the start of the Azerbaijani offensive in Karabakh on Saturday.[21]

On the Armenian side, at least 20 soldiers have been killed and 26 others gone missing since Saturday. The fighting accompanied by shelling of towns and villages has also left 4 Karabakh Armenian civilians, including an 11-year-old boy, dead.[22]

References

  1. http://armenpress.am/eng/news/842106/david-babayan-azerbaijani-side-made-several-failed-attempts-to-infiltrate-into-artsakh-territory.html
  2. https://www.rt.com/news/338102-armenia-azerbaijan-karabakh-violence/
  3. https://www.rt.com/news/338102-armenia-azerbaijan-karabakh-violence/
  4. https://www.rt.com/news/338102-armenia-azerbaijan-karabakh-violence/
  5. http://armenpress.am/eng/news/842106/david-babayan-azerbaijani-side-made-several-failed-attempts-to-infiltrate-into-artsakh-territory.html
  6. http://www.businessinsider.com/ap-fighting-persists-in-nagorno-karabakh-after-30-forces-killed-2016-4
  7. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-03/violence-flares-in-caucasus-raising-threat-of-wider-conflict
  8. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-03/violence-flares-in-caucasus-raising-threat-of-wider-conflict
  9. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-03/violence-flares-in-caucasus-raising-threat-of-wider-conflict
  10. http://www.panarmenian.net/eng/news/209555/
  11. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35964213
  12. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35964213
  13. http://www.wsj.com/articles/crisis-escalates-in-nagorno-karabakh-1459797198
  14. http://www.wsj.com/articles/crisis-escalates-in-nagorno-karabakh-1459797198
  15. http://www.armenialiberty.org/content/article/27653685.html
  16. http://www.armenialiberty.org/content/article/27653685.html
  17. http://www.armenialiberty.org/content/article/27653685.html
  18. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2016/04/05/israeli-made-kamikaze-drone-spotted-in-nagorno-karabakh-conflict/
  19. http://hetq.am/eng/news/67051/artsakh-two-sides-declare-halt-to-hostilities-as-of-noon-today.html
  20. http://www.azatutyun.am/content/article/27655825.html
  21. http://www.azatutyun.am/content/article/27655825.html
  22. http://www.azatutyun.am/content/article/27655825.html