The 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war was an armed conflict between Azerbaijan, supported by Turkey, and the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh together with Armenia, in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding territories. It was the latest escalation of an unresolved conflict over the region, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but partially governed by Artsakh, a breakaway state with an Armenian ethnic majority.[lower-alpha 5]
Clashes began on the morning of 27 September 2020 along the Nagorno-Karabakh Line of Contact, which had been established in the aftermath of the First Nagorno-Karabakh War (1988–1994). In response, Armenia and Artsakh introduced martial law and total mobilization, while Azerbaijan introduced martial law, a curfew and partial mobilization. Turkey provided military support to Azerbaijan, although the extent of this support has been disputed. Turkey's involvement is thought to have been an attempt to extend its sphere of influence, both by increasing the standing of Azerbaijan in the conflict and by marginalizing Russia's influence over the region.
International analysts believe that fighting likely began with an Azerbaijani offensive, with the primary goal of reclaiming the less mountainous districts of southern Nagorno-Karabakh, which were easier to take than the region's well-fortified interior. The war was marked by the deployment of drones, sensors, long-range heavy artillery and missile strikes, as well as by state propaganda and the use of official social media accounts in online information warfare. Total casualties on both sides may be in the low thousands. Numerous countries and the United Nations strongly condemned the fighting and called on both sides to de-escalate tensions and resume meaningful negotiations without delay. Three ceasefires brokered by Russia, France, and the United States failed to stop the fighting.
Following the capture of Shusha, the second-largest settlement in Nagorno-Karabakh, a ceasefire agreement was signed between the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, the Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, and the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, ending all hostilities in the area from 00:00, 10 November 2020 Moscow Time. The President of Artsakh, Arayik Harutyunyan, also agreed to end the hostilities. Under the agreement, the warring sides will keep control of their currently held areas within Nagorno-Karabakh, while Armenia returned the surrounding territories it occupied in 1994 to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan will also gain land access to its Nakhchivan exclave bordering Turkey and Iran. Approximately 2,000 Russian soldiers are deployed as peacekeeping forces along the Lachin corridor between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh for a mandate of at least five years.
- Azerbaijani language
- Azərbaycan–Ermənistan müharibəsi) the "Six-Week War" (Armenian language: Վեցշաբաթյա պատերազմ
- Azerbaijani language
- Altı həftəlik müharibə), and the "Forty-Four Day War" (Armenian language: Քառասունչորսօրյա պատերազմ
- Azerbaijani language
- Qırx dörd günlük müharibə) in both Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as the international media.
In Armenia and Artsakh, it has been referred to as the "Second Artsakh War" (Armenian language: Արցախյան երկրորդ պատերազմ ) and the "Fight for Survival" (Armenian language: Գոյամարտ ) by the public and the government.
In Azerbaijan, it has been referred to as the "Second Karabakh War" (Azerbaijani language: İkinci Qarabağ müharibəsi), "The Patriotic War" (Azerbaijani language: Vətən müharibəsi), "Operation for peace enforcement of Armenia" (Azerbaijani language: Ermənistanı sülhə məcburetmə əməliyyatı), or "Counter-offensive operation" (Azerbaijani language: Əks-hücum əməliyyatı) by the public and the government. On 10 December, the Azerbaijani government announced that it had initiated the military operations under the code-name "Operation Iron Fist" (Azerbaijani language: Dəmir Yumruq əməliyyatı).
The territorial ownership of Nagorno-Karabakh is fiercely contested between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. The current conflict has its roots in events following World War I and today the region is de jure part of Azerbaijan, although large parts are de facto held by the internationally unrecognised Republic of Artsakh, which is supported by Armenia.
During the Soviet era, the predominantly Armenian-populated region was governed as an autonomous oblast within the Azerbaijan SSR. As the Soviet Union began to disintegrate during the late 1980s the question of Nagorno-Karabakh's status re-emerged, and on 20 February 1988 the parliament of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast passed a resolution requesting transfer of the oblast from the Azerbaijan SSR to the Armenian SSR. Azerbaijan rejected the request several times, and ethnic violence began shortly thereafter with a series of pogroms between 1988 and 1990 against Armenians in Sumgait, Ganja and Baku, and against Azerbaijanis in Gugark and Stepanakert. Following the revocation of Nagorno-Karabakh's autonomous status, an independence referendum was held in the region on 10 December 1991. The referendum was boycotted by the Azerbaijani population, which then constituted around 22.8% of the region's population; 99.8% of participants voted in favor. In early 1992, following the Soviet Union's collapse, the region descended into outright war.[dead link]
First Nagorno-Karabakh War
The First Nagorno-Karabakh War resulted in the displacement of approximately 725,000 Azerbaijanis and 300,000–500,000 Armenians from both Azerbaijan and Armenia. The 1994 Bishkek Protocol brought the fighting to an end and resulted in significant Armenian territorial gains: in addition to controlling most of Nagorno-Karabakh, the Republic of Artsakh also occupied the surrounding Azerbaijani populated districts of Agdam, Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Kalbajar, Qubadli, Lachin and Zangilan. The terms of the Bishkek agreement produced a frozen conflict, and long-standing international mediation attempts to create a peace process were initiated by the OSCE Minsk Group in 1994, with the interrupted Madrid Principles being the most recent iteration prior to the 2020 war. The United Nations Security Council adopted four resolutions in 1993 calling for the withdrawal of "occupying forces" from the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh, and in 2008 the General Assembly adopted a resolution demanding the immediate withdrawal of Armenian occupying forces, although the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, Russia, France and USA, voted against it.
For three decades multiple violations of the ceasefire occurred, the most serious being the four-day 2016 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Surveys indicated that the inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh did not want to be part of Azerbaijan, and in 2020, the Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, and other Armenian officials made populist statements, announcing plans to make Shusha, a major city that has historical, political and cultural importance for both the Armenians and the Azerbaijanis, Artsakh's new capital and in August of the same year the government of Artsakh moved the building of the country's parliament there, which escalated the tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Further skirmishes occurred on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan in July 2020. Thousands of Azerbaijanis demonstrated for war against Armenia in response, and Turkey voiced its firm support for Azerbaijan. On 29 July 2020, Azerbaijan conducted a series of military exercises that lasted from 29 July to 10 August 2020, followed by further exercises in early September with the involvement of Turkey. Prior to the resumption of hostilities, allegations emerged that Turkey had facilitated the transfer of hundreds of Syrian National Army members from the Hamza Division to Azerbaijan. The government of Azerbaijan denied the involvement of foreign fighters.
Course of the conflict
The accounts of engagements in this conflict rely primarily on official statements from belligerents. The engagements have been characterized by the use of armoured warfare; drone warfare, especially the use of Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 and Israeli loitering munition Harop drones; heavy artillery; rocket attacks; and trench warfare. Throughout the campaign, Azerbaijan has relied heavily on drones to strike at Armenian/Artsakh forces, and managed to inflict heavy losses. Having successfully targeted tanks, artillery, and air defense systems, Azerbaijani drones also began targeting units of soldiers. However, some Azerbaijani drones were shot down. It has also featured the deployment of cluster munitions, which are banned by the majority of the international community but not by Armenia or Azerbaijan: international third parties have confirmed that Armenia had deployed cluster munitions on civilian-populated areas outside of the conflict zone, and international third parties have confirmed evidence of Azerbaijan's use of cluster munitions against civilian areas of Nagorno-Karabakh. A series of attacks have inflicted mass civilian casualties in Ganja, Azerbaijan, while civilian residences and infrastructure in Stepanakert, Artsakh's capital, and elsewhere have been targeted, inflicting casualties and causing extensive damage. Disinformation and misinformation have accompanied the conflict.
The amount of territory contested is relatively restricted, but the conflict has expanded beyond the borders of Nagorno-Karabakh due to the level of conflict and kind of munitions deployed and spilled over international borders. Shells and rockets have landed in East Azerbaijan Province in Iran, although causing no damage, and Iran has reported several unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) downed or crashed within its territory, while Georgia stated that two UAVs had crashed in Kakheti Province.
The conflict began with an Azerbaijani ground offensive that included armored formations, supported by artillery and drones, including loitering munitions. Armenian and Artsakh troops were forced back from their first line of defense in Artsakh's southeast and northern regions, but inflicted significant losses on Azerbaijani armored formations with anti-tank guided missiles and artillery, destroying dozens of vehicles. Azerbaijan made heavy use of drones in strikes against Armenian air defenses, taking out 13 short-range surface-to-air missile systems. Azerbaijani forces used drones to systematically isolate and destroy Armenian/Artsakh positions. Reconnaissance drones would locate a military position on the front lines and the placement of reserve forces, after which the position would be shelled along with roads and bridges that could potentially be used by the reserves to reach the position. After the Armenian/Artsakh position had been extensively shelled and cut off from reinforcement, the Azerbaijanis would move in superior forces to overwhelm it. This tactic was repeatedly used to gradually overrun Armenian and Artsakh positions. Azerbaijani troops managed to make limited gains in the south in the first three days of the conflict. For the next three days, both sides largely exchanged fire from fixed positions. In the north, Armenian/Artsakh forces counterattacked, managing to retake some ground. Their largest counterattack took place on the fourth day, but incurred heavy losses when their armor and artillery units were exposed to Azerbaijani attack drones, loitering munitions, and reconnaissance drones spotting for Azerbaijani artillery as they maneuvered in the open. On the sixth day, Azerbaijan and Armenia/Artsakh began trading missile and rocket artillery strikes against infrastructure. Among the targets hit were Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh, which was repeatedly shelled with rocket artillery, a bridge linking Armenia with Nagorno-Karabakh, which was taken out in a missile strike, and Ganja, which was hit four times by Armenian and Artsakh missiles, with Ganja International Airport among the targets. On the morning of the seventh day, Azerbaijan launched a major offensive. The Azerbaijani Army's First, Second, and Third Army Corps, reinforced by reservists from the Fourth Army Corps, began an advance in the north, making some territorial gains, but the Azerbaijani advance stalled.
Most of the fighting subsequently shifted to the south, in terrain that is relatively flat and underpopulated as compared to the mountainous north. Azerbaijani forces launched offensives toward Jabrayil and Füzuli, managing to break through the multi-layered Armenian/Artsakh defensive lines and recapture a stretch of territory held by Armenian troops as a buffer zone, but the fighting subsequently stalled.
After the shelling of Khojavend (Martuni), Artsakh authorities began mobilizing civilians. Just before 04:00 (00:00 UTC) on 10 October 2020, Russia reported that both Armenia and Azerbaijan had agreed on a humanitarian ceasefire after ten hours of talks in Moscow (the Moscow Statement) and announced that both would enter "substantive" talks. After the declared ceasefire, the President of Artsakh admitted Azerbaijan had been able to achieve some success, moving the front deep into Artsakh territory; the Armenian Prime Minister announced that Armenian forces had conducted a "partial retreat".
The ceasefire quickly broke down and the Azerbaijani advance continued. Within days Azerbaijan announced the capture of dozens of villages on the southern front. A second ceasefire attempt midnight 17 October 2020 was also ignored. Azerbaijan announced the capture of Jabrayil on 9 October 2020 and Füzuli on 17 October 2020. Azerbaijani troops also captured the Khoda Afarin Dam and Khodaafarin Bridges. Azerbaijan announced that the border area with Iran was fully secured with the capture of Agbend on 22 October 2020. Azerbaijani forces then turned northwest, advancing towards the Lachin corridor, the sole highway between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, putting it within artillery range. According to Artsakh, a counterattack repelled forward elements of the Azerbaijani force and pushed them back. Armenian/Artsakh resistance had managed to halt the Azerbaijani advance to within 25 kilometers of the Lachin corridor by 26 October 2020. Artsakh troops who had retreated into the mountains and forests began launching small-unit attacks against exposed Azerbaijani infantry and armor, and Armenian forces launched a counteroffensive near the far southwestern border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. On 26 October 2020, a US-brokered ceasefire came into effect, but fighting resumed within minutes. Three days later, the Artsakh authorities stated that the Azerbaijani forces were 5 km (3.1 mi) from Shusha. On 8 November 2020, Azerbaijani forces seized Shusha, the second-largest city in Artsakh before the war, located 15 kilometers from Stepanakert, the republic's capital.
On 9 November 2020, in the aftermath of the capture of Shusha, a ceasefire agreement was signed by the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, the Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, and the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, ending all hostilities in the zone of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict from 10 November 2020, 00:00 Moscow time. The President of Artsakh, Arayik Harutyunyan, also agreed to end the hostilities.
Under the terms of the deal, both belligerent parties were to exchange prisoners of war and the bodies of the fallen. Furthermore, Armenian forces were to withdraw from Armenian-occupied territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh by 1 December 2020, while a peacekeeping force, provided by the Russian Ground Forces and led by Lieutenant General Rustam Muradov, of just under 2,000 soldiers would be deployed for a minimum of five years along the line of contact and the Lachin corridor linking Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Additionally, Armenia undertook to "guarantee safety" of passage between Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan exclave and mainland Azerbaijan in both directions, while Russia's border troops (under the Federal Security Service) were to "exercise control over the transport communication".
On December 15, 2020, after several weeks of cease fire, the sides finally exchanged prisoners of war. 44 Armenian and 12 Azeri prisoners were exchanged. It's unclear if more prisoners remain in captivity on either side.
Non-military actions taken by Armenia and Azerbaijan
Since the beginning of the conflict, both Armenia and Azerbaijan declared martial law, limiting the freedom of speech. Meanwhile, a new law came into effect since October 2020 in Armenia, which prohibits negative coverage of the situation at the front. Restrictions have been reported on the work of international journalists in Azerbaijan, with no corresponding restrictions reported in Nagorno-Karabakh.
On 28 September 2020, Armenia banned men aged over 18 listed in the mobilization reserve from leaving the country. The next day, it postponed the trial of former President Robert Kocharyan and other former officials charged in the 2008 post-election unrest case, owing to one of the defendants, the former Defence Minister of Armenia, Seyran Ohanyan, going to Artsakh during the conflict.
On 1 October 2020, the Armenian National Security Service (NSS) stated that it had arrested and charged a former high-ranking Armenian military official with treason on suspicion of spying for Azerbaijan. Three days later, the NSS stated that it had arrested several foreign citizens on suspicion of spying. Protesting Israeli arms sales to Azerbaijan, Armenia has recalled its ambassador to Israel.
On 8 October 2020, the Armenian President, Armen Sarkissian, dismissed the director of the NSS. Subsequently, the Armenian government toughened the martial law and prohibited criticizing state bodies and "propaganda aimed at disruption of the defense capacity of the country". On the same day, the Armenian MoD canceled a Novaya Gazeta correspondent's journalistic accreditation, officially for entering Nagorno-Karabakh without accreditation. On 9 October 2020, Armenia tightened its security legislation. On 21 October 2020, the Armenian Cabinet of Ministers temporarily banned the import of Turkish goods, the decision will come into force on 31 December 2020. The following day, the Armenian parliament passed a law to write off the debts of the Armenian servicemen wounded during the clashes and the debts of the families of those killed.
On 27 October 2020, the Armenian president Armen Sarkissian dismissed the head of the counterintelligence department of the National Security Service, Major General Hovhannes Karumyan and the chief of staff of the border troops of the National Security Service Gagik Tevosyan. On 8 November 2020, Sarkissian yet again dismissed the interim head of the National Security Service.
As of 8 November 2020, one Armenian activist was fined by the police for his anti-war post.
On 27 September 2020, Azerbaijani authorities restricted internet access shortly after the clashes began, stating it was "in order to prevent large-scale Armenian provocations." The government made a noticeable push to use Twitter, which was the only unblocked platform in the country. Despite the restrictions, some Azerbaijanis still used VPNs to bypass them. The National Assembly of Azerbaijan declared a curfew in Baku, Ganja, Goygol, Yevlakh and a number of districts from midnight on 28 September 2020, under the Interior Minister, Vilayet Eyvazov. Azerbaijan Airlines announced that all airports in Azerbaijan would be closed to regular passenger flights until 30 September 2020. The Military Prosecutor's Offices of Fizuli, Tartar, Karabakh and Ganja began criminal investigations of war and other crimes.
Also on 28 September 2020, the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, issued a decree authorising a partial mobilization in Azerbaijan. On 8 October 2020, Azerbaijan recalled its ambassador to Greece for consultations, following allegations of Armenians from Greece arriving in Nagorno-Karabakh to fight against Azerbaijan. Three days later, the Azerbaijani State Security Service (SSS) warned against a potential Armenian-backed terror attack.
On 17 October 2020, the Azerbaijani MoFA stated that member of the Russian State Duma from the ruling United Russia, Vitaly Milonov, was declared persona non grata in Azerbaijan for visiting Nagorno-Karabakh without permission from the Azerbaijani government. On 24 October 2020, by recommendation of the Central Bank of Azerbaijan, the member banks of the Azerbaijani Banks' Association unanimously adopted a decision to write off the debts of the military servicemen and civilians who died during the conflict.
On 29 October 2020, the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, issued a decree on the formation of temporary commandant's offices in the areas that the Azerbaijani forces seized control of during the conflict. According to the decree, the commandants will be appointed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, but they will have to coordinate with other executive bodies of the government, including Ministry of Defense, the State Border Service, the State Security Service, and ANAMA.
By 31 October 2020, after gaining control of the territories on the border with Iran, Azerbaijan had established control over four more border posts.
On 12 December, a decree by President Aliyev lifted the curfew that had been imposed in September.
Shortly after the news about the signing the ceasefire agreement broke in the early hours of 10 November, violent protests erupted in Armenia against Nikol Pashinyan, claiming he was a "traitor" for having accepted the peace deal. Protesters also seized the parliament building by breaking a metal door, and pulled the President of the National Assembly of Armenia Ararat Mirzoyan from a car and beat him. Throughout November, numerous Armenian officials resigned from their posts, including the Armenian minister of foreign affairs, Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, the minister of defence, David Tonoyan, head of the same ministry's military control service, Movses Hakobyan, and the spokesman of Armenia's Defense Ministry, Artsrun Hovhannisyan.
After the ceasefire agreement was signed, President Armen Sarksyan held a meeting with Karekin II, where they both made a call to declare 22 November as the Day of Remembrance of the Heroes who fell for the Defense of the Motherland in the Artsakh Liberation War. On 16 November, he declared that snap parliamentary elections and Pashinyan's resignation were inevitable, proposing that a process be overseen and managed by an interim "National Accord Government".
On 10 December, the Armenian media reported that an Azerbaijani citizen was detained at night near Berdavan in Tavush Province. It was reported that an Azerbaijani civilian was observed in Berdavan between 4:00 and 5:00 in the morning. The executive head of Berdavan, Smbat Mugdesyan, said that the NSS had taken him away and that he did not know other details. According to the Armenian media, a criminal case was opened against the detained citizen on suspicion of illegally crossing to the Armenian state border. The name of the detained Azerbaijani was not disclosed. According to the BBC Azerbaijani Service, Azerbaijan's Internal Affairs, Foreign Affairs and Defence Ministries said they had no information about the incident.
On 12 December, the Azerbaijani trucks, accompanied by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Russian peacekeepers, entered David Bek in Syunik Province of Armenia to pick up the bodies of fallen soldiers. The Armenian officials refuted the media reports of Azerbaijani vehicles entered Goris.
On 16 December, the family members of the missing Armenian soldiers gathered in front of the Armenian ministry of defence building. Demanding information about their loved ones, they were not allowed into the building, and the Armenian military representatives didn't responded to them either. This was followed by a scuffle, when the family members of the missing Armenian soldiers broke through to the building.
The peace agreement and the end of the war was seen as a victory and was widely celebrated in Azerbaijan. On 10 November 2020, crowds waved flags in Baku after the peace deal was announced. On 11 November, the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, at a meeting with wounded Azerbaijani servicemen who took part in the war, said that new orders and medals would be established in Azerbaijan, and that he gave appropriate instructions on awarding civilians and servicemen who showed "heroism on the battlefield and in the rear and distinguished themselves in this war." He also proposed the names of these orders and medals. About a week later, at a plenary session of the Azerbaijani National Assembly, a draft law on amendments to the law "On the establishment of orders and medals of the Republic of Azerbaijan" was submitted for discussion. Seventeen new orders and medals were established on the same day in the first reading in accordance with the bill "On the establishment of orders and medals of the Republic of Azerbaijan". On 12 November, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Internal Affairs stated that it had moved the Shusha police department, which was previously located in Tartar District, into Shusha, while on 14 November, the control of the Sugovushan reservoir was transferred to the Azerbaijani Ministry of Emergency Situations from the military. On 15 November, the Armenian Apostolic Church claimed that Ghazanchetsots Cathedral had been defaced after the Azerbaijani forces took control of Shusha, prompting a statement by the Armenian Foreign Ministry denouncing the act; the Azerbaijani president Aliyev issued a statement saying that the Christian churches would be protected. Also, on December 1, Azerbaijan's First Deputy Minister of Culture, Acting Minister Anar Karimov, told France24 that Karabakh's Christian cultural heritage would be protected by the government. Noting the Armenian Saint Gregory the Illuminator Church in Baku, Karimov stressed that the Christian religious monuments in Karabakh were "inherited from our ancestors." On 14 January 2021, in an interview with Azeri Press Agency, Karimov told that the Christian monuments, including the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral, will be restored by the government.
On mid-November, Aliyev and Azerbaijan's First Vice-President, Mehriban Aliyeva, visited Fuzuli and Jabrayil Districts, both of which were ghost towns in ruins after the Armenian forces occupied it in 1993. Aliyev ordered the State Agency of Azerbaijan Automobile Roads to construct a new highway, starting from Alxanlı, which will connect Fuzuli to Shusha. In Jabrayil, Aliyev stated that a "new master plan" will be drawn up to rebuild the city. He also visited the Khodaafarin Bridges, in the border with Iran. According to the Azerbaijani economist Toghrul Valiyev, fully reconstructing Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, and Gubadly, all which basically have no infrastructure left, would likely take 10 years and cost about $15 billion. According to the head of the NGO Humanitarian Research Public Union, Avaz Hasanov, Azerbaijan will also likely try to attract private financing for the reconstruction. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan Railways also announced its plans to rebuild the rail line connecting Stepanakert to Yevlakh. On 18 November, the Azerbaijani MP Tahir Mirkishili stated that a consortium was formed between the state-owned Azergold and a foreign company to mine for gold in Zangilan, Vejnəli, and Kalbajar. Also, PASHA Bank and Kapital Bank announced that they plan to open new branches across the region. Meanwhile, organizers of the Turkvision Song Contest stated that they were exploring the possibility of holding the contest's 2021 version in Shusha.
On 23 November, the units of the State Fire Control Service of the Azerbaijani Ministry of Emergency Situations started operating in several districts in Karabakh controlled by Azerbaijan. The next day, archeological finds in Azykh Cave were brought to Baku by the representatives of the Azerbaijani State Security Service and placed in the Archaeological Fund of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of ANAS. On 25 November, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) approved the inclusion of six more Azerbaijani airports in the international spatial index catalog, including Aghdam, Fuzuli and Stepanakert airports. The codes of these airports will be added to the updated edition of the ICAO Registry, which will be published in December. On 28 November, a civilian car hit a mine in Aşağı Seyidəhmədli, in Fuzuli District, killing four people, including the editor-in-chief of the Gaidish newspaper, the media outlet of the Fuzuli District Executive Power. After that, the Azerbaijani Prosecutor General's Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs appealed to citizens not to visit the newly acquired territories without the necessary permission until they are completely cleared of mines and other explosive devices.
27 September and 10 November were declared Memorial Day and Victory Day respectively, although the latter's date was changed to 8 November as it overlapped with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's Memorial Day in Turkey. It was also announced that the new station in the Baku Metro will be named 8 November at the suggestion of Aliyev. On the same day, President Aliyev signed a decree on the establishment of the YASHAT Foundation to support the families of those wounded and killed during the war, and general control over the management of the foundation was transferred to the ASAN service. On December 2, by the decree of the Azerbaijani president, Ilham Aliyev, some servicemen were discharged from military service. On the same day, the Association of Banks of Azerbaijan announced that the bank debts of servicemen and civilians killed during the war in Azerbaijan would be completely written off. The next day, ANAMA announced that the demining operation of the road to Madagiz had been completed. That same day, a decree by Aliyev ordered the establishment of the Patriotic War Memorial Complex and Victory Museum. On 4 December, at 12:00 (GMT+4) local time, a moment of silence was held in Azerbaijan to commemorate the fallen soldiers of the war. In this regard, flags were lowered across the country, and traffic halted, while ships moored in the Bay of Baku, as well as cars honked their horns. A unity prayer was held at the Heydar Mosque in Baku in memory of those killed in the war, and Shaykh al-Islām Allahshukur Pashazadeh, chairman of the Religious Council of the Caucasus, said that "Sunnis and Shiites prayed for the souls of our martyrs together." In addition to the capital, commemoration ceremonies were held in mosques in Sumgayit, Guba, Ganja, Shamakhi, Lankaran, Shaki, in churches in Baku and Ganja, and in the synagogue of Ashkenazi Jews in Baku. In addition, people visited the Martyrs' Lane in Baku. President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva also visited the Martyrs' Lane. The next day, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of the Population stated that the State Social Protection Fund under the ministry had given the status of shahid to 94 Azerbaijani civilians who died during the war, proving the same rights provided to the members of the families of the fallen soldiers. On 9 December, President Aliyev awarded 83 servicemen with the title of Hero of the Patriotic War, 204 servicemen with Karabakh Order, and 33 servicemen with Zafar Order. On 12 December, the martial law will be lifted by the decree of the President Ilham Aliyev.
On 10 December, a victory parade was held in honor of the Azerbaijani victory on Azadliq Square, with 3,000 military servicemen who distinguished themselves during the war marched alongside military equipment, unmanned aerial vehicles and aircraft, as well as Armenian war trophies, and Turkish soldiers and officers. Turkish President Erdoğan attended the military parade as part of a state visit to Baku.
Return of occupied territories
Casualties have been high, officially in the low thousands. According to official figures released by the belligerents, Armenia lost 3,360 troops killed, while Azerbaijan lost 2,853 troops killed with 50 missing in action. However, it was noted that the sides downplayed the number of their own casualties and exaggerated the numbers of enemy casualties and injuries.
The Armenian authorities stated that 71 Armenian civilians were killed during the war, while another 40 went missing. According to Azerbaijani sources, the Armenian military has targeted densely populated areas containing civilian structures. As of 9 November 2020, the Prosecutor General's Office of the Republic of Azerbaijan stated that during the war, as a result of reported shelling by Armenian artillery and rocketing, 100 people had been killed, while 416 people had been wounded. Also, during the post-war clashes, the Azerbaijani authorities stataed that an Azercell employee was seriously injured during the installation of communication facilities and transmission equipment near Hadrut.
As of 23 October 2020, the Armenian authorities has stated that the conflict had displaced more than half of Nagorno-Karabakh's population or approximately 90,000 people. The International Rescue Committee has also claimted that more than half of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh has been displaced by the conflict. As of 2 November 2020, the Azerbaijani authorities has stated that the conflict had displaced approximately 40,000 people in Azerbaijan.
Seven journalists have been injured. On 1 October 2020, two French journalists from Le Monde covering the clashes in Khojavend were injured by Azerbaijani shellfire. A week later, three Russian journalists reporting in Shusha were seriously injured by an Azerbaijani attack. On 19 October 2020, according to Azerbaijani sources, an Azerbaijani AzTV journalist received shrapnel wounds from Armenian shellfire in Aghdam District.
Armenian authorities reported the deaths of 4,005 servicemen during the war, while the Azerbaijani authorities stated that more than 5,000 Armenian servicemen were killed, and several times more were wounded as of 28 October 2020. After the war, the former director of the Armenian National Security Service, Artur Vanetsyan, had also stated that some 5,000 Armenians were killed during the war. Also, the Armenian authorities had stated that about 60 Armenian servicemen were captured by Azerbaijan as prisoners of war. The former Head of the Military Control Service of the Armenian MoD, Movses Hakobyan, stated that already on the fifth day of war there were 1,500 deserters from Armenian armed forces, who were kept in Karabakh and not allowed to return to Armenia in order to prevent panic. The press secretary of Armenian prime minister called the accusations absurd and asked the law enforcement agencies to deal with them. Former military commissar of Armenia major-general Levon Stepanyan stated that the number of deserters in Armenian army was over 10,000, and it is not possible to prosecute such a large number of military personnel. During the post-war clashes, the Armenian government stated that 60 servicemen went missing, including several dozen that were captured. and On 27 October 2020, Artsakh authorities stated that its defense minister Jalal Harutyunyan was wounded in action. However, unofficial Azerbaijani military sources alleged that he was killed and released footage apparently showing the assassination from a drone camera.
During the conflict, the government of Azerbaijan did not reveal the number of its military casualties. On 11 January, Azerbaijan stated that 2,853 of its soldiers had been killed during the war, while another 50 went missing. Also, Azerbaijani authorities stated that 11 more Azerbaijani servicemen were killed during the post-war clashes or landmine explosions. On 23 October 2020, President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, confirmed that Shukur Hamidov who was made National Hero of Azerbaijan in 2016, was killed during the operations in Qubadli District. This was the first military casualty officially confirmed by the government. However, Armenian and Artsakh authorities have claimed 7,630 Azerbaijani soldiers and Syrian mercenaries were killed.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights documented the death of at least 541 Syrian fighters or mercenaries fighting for Azerbaijan. On 14 November 2020, the Observatory reported the death of a commander of the Syrian National Army's Hamza Division.
Civilian areas, including major cities, have been hit, including Azerbaijan's second-largest city, Ganja, and the region's capital, Stepanakert, with many buildings and homes destroyed. The Ghazanchetsots Cathedral has also been damaged. Several outlets reported increased cases of COVID-19 in Nagorno-Karabakh, particularly the city of Stepanakert, where the population was forced to live in overcrowded bunkers, due to Azerbaijan artillery and drone strikes conflict. There were also reported difficulties in testing and contact tracing during the conflict.
The Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shusha became damaged as a result of shelling. On 19 October 2020, a strong fire broke out in a cotton plant in Azad Qaraqoyunlu, Tartar District, as a result of the Armenian artillery shelling, with several large hangars of the plant becoming completely burned down. An Armenian-backed Nagorno-Karabakh human rights ombudsman report noted 5,800 private properties and 520 private vehicles destroyed, with damage to 960 items of civilian infrastructure, and industrial and public and objects. On 16 November 2020, the Prosecutor General's Office of the Republic of Azerbaijan reported 3,410 private houses, 512 civilian facilities, and 120 multi-storey residential buildings being damaged throughout the war.
By 7 October 2020, Azerbaijan reported to have destroyed about 250 tanks and other armored vehicles; 150 other military vehicles; 11 command and command-observation posts; 270 artillery units and MLRSs, including a BM-27 Uragan; 60 Armenian anti-aircraft systems, including 4 S-300 and 25 9K33 Osas; 18 UAVs and 8 arms depots. destroyed. As of 16 October 2020, the Azerbaijani President stated that the Armenian losses were at US$2 billion. In turn an Azerbaijani helicopter was stated to have been damaged, but its crew had apparently returned it to Azerbaijani-controlled territory without casualties. Later it was reported that on 12 October 2020, Azerbaijan had destroyed one Tochka-U missile launcher. On 14 October 2020, Azerbaijan stated it had further destroyed five T-72 tanks, three BM-21 Grad rocket launchers, one 9K33 Osa missile system, one BMP-2 vehicle, one KS-19 air defense gun, two D-30 howitzers and several Armenian army automobiles. On the same day, Azerbaijan announced the destruction of three R-17 Elbrus tactical ballistic missile launchers that had been targeting Ganja and Mingachevir. BBC reporters confirmed the destruction of at least one tactical ballistic missile launcher in the vicinity of Vardenis, close to the border with Azerbaijan, and posted photo evidence in support of this information. Later American journalist Josh Friedman posted a high quality video of a destroyed Armenian ballistic missile launcher.
Armenian and Artsakh authorities initially reported the downing of four Azerbaijani helicopters and the destruction of ten tanks and IFVs, as well as 15 drones. Later the numbers were revised to 36 tanks and armored personnel vehicles destroyed, two armored combat engineering vehicles destroyed and four helicopters and 27 unmanned aerial vehicles downed all within the first day of hostilities. They released footage showing the destruction or damage of five Azerbaijani tanks. Over the course of 2 October, the Artsakh Defence Army said they had destroyed 39 Azerbaijani military vehicles, including a T-90 tank; four SU-25 fighter-bombers; three Mi-24 attack helicopters; and 17 UAVs.
According to Dutch warfare research group Oryx, which documents visually confirmed losses on both sides, Armenia lost 222 tanks (destroyed: 134, damaged: 5, captured: 83), 58 armored fighting vehicles (destroyed: 25, captured: 33), and 540 trucks, vehicles and jeeps (destroyed: 261, damaged: 8, captured: 271), while Azerbaijan lost 36 tanks (destroyed: 22, damaged: 11, abandoned: 1, captured: 2, captured but later lost: 1), 14 armored fighting vehicles (destroyed: 2, damaged: 1, abandoned: 4, captured: 9), 31 trucks, vehicles and jeeps (destroyed: 16, damaged: 9, abandoned: 5, captured: 2), as well 11 old An-2 aircraft, used as unmanned bait in order for Armenia to reveal the location of air defense systems. Oryx only counts destroyed vehicles and equipment of which photo or videographic evidence is available, and therefore, the actual number of equipment destroyed is higher.
While Armenians and Azerbaijanis lived side by side under Soviet rule, the collapse of the Soviet Union contributed to racialization and fierce nationalism, causing both Armenians and Azerbaijanis to stereotype each other, shaping respective sociopolitical discourses. Before, during and after the First Nagorno-Karabakh War, the growth of anti-Armenian and anti-Azerbaijan sentiment resulted in ethnic violence, including pogroms against Armenians in Azerbaijan, as in Sumgait and Baku, and against Azerbaijanis in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, as at Gugark and Stepanakert. The incitement of hatred and promotion of hate speech is one of the main obstacles to creating the necessary conditions for a peace process.[verification needed]
In a 27 September 2020 interview, regional expert Thomas de Waal said that it was highly unlikely that hostilities were initiated by the Armenian side, as they were already in possession of the disputed territory and were incentivized to normalize the status quo, while "for various reasons, Azerbaijan calculate[d] that military action w[ould] win it something". The suspected immediate goal of the Azerbaijani offensive was to capture the districts of Fuzuli and Jabrayil in southern Nagorno-Karabakh, where the terrain is less mountainous and more favorable for offensive operations. According to Russian military expert Mikhail Khodarenok, Azerbaijan had carefully planned and prepared the offensive operation; however, he added that the Azerbaijani army did not appear to complete its initial objectives during the first five days of the clashes, taking neither Fuzuli nor Mardakert. Similarly, political scientist Arkady Dubnov of the Carnegie Moscow Center believed that Azerbaijan had launched the offensive to improve Azerbaijan's position in a suitable season for hostilities in the terrain.
Turkey and Russia
The geostrategic interests of Russia and Turkey in the region were widely commented upon during the war. Both were described as benefiting from the ceasefire agreement, with The Economist stating that for Russia, China and Turkey, "all sides stand to benefit economically". In late October, massed Russian airstrikes targeted a training camp for Failaq al-Sham, one of the largest Turkish-backed Sunni Islamist rebel groups in Syria's Idlib province, killing 78 militants in an act widely interpreted as a warning shot to Ankara over the latter's involvement in the Nagorno-Karabakh fighting.
Azerbaijan and Turkey are bound by ethnic, cultural and historic ties, and both countries refer to their relationship as being one between "two states, one nation". Turkey (then the Ottoman Empire) helped Azerbaijan, previously part of the Russian Empire gain its independence in 1918, and became the first country to recognize Azerbaijan's independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Turkey has also been the guarantor of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, an exclave of Azerbaijan, since 1921. Other commentators have seen Turkey's support for Azerbaijan as part of an activist foreign policy, linking it with neo-Ottoman policies in Syria, Iraq, and the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey's highly visible role in the conflict was described by Armenians as a continuation of the Armenian Genocide, the mass murder and expulsion of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman government, particularly given Turkey's continued denial of the genocide. Turkey provided military support to Azerbaijan, including military experts and Syrian mercenaries. The access corridor stipulated by the ceasefire agreement, linking Nakhchivan and the main part of Azerbaijan through Armenia, would provide Turkey with trade access to Central Asia and China's Belt and Road Initiative.
Russia had sought to maintain good relations with Azerbaijan and had sold weapons to both parties. Even prior to the war, Russia had possessed a military base in Armenia as part of a military alliance with Armenia, and thus was obligated by treaty to defend Armenia in the case of a war. Like in Syria and in Libya's ongoing civil war, Russia and NATO-member Turkey therefore had opposing interests. Turkey appeared to use the conflict to attempt to leverage its influence in the South Caucasus along its eastern border, using both military and diplomatic resources to extend its sphere of influence in the Middle East, and to marginalize the influence of Russia, another regional power. Russia had historically pursued a policy of maintaining neutrality in the conflict, and Armenia never formally requested aid. According to the director of the Russia studies program at the CNA, at the beginning of the war Russia was judged to be unlikely to intervene militarily unless Armenia incurred drastic losses. The Russian MoFA also released a statement, saying that Russia will provide Armenia with "all the necessary assistance" if the war continued on the territories of Armenia, as both countries are part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Nonetheless, when the Azerbaijani forces reportedly struck the Armenian territories on 14 October 2020, Russia did not directly interfere in the conflict. In a piece published by the Russian broadsheet Vedomosti on 10 November, Konstantin Makienko, a member of the State Duma Defence Committee, wrote that the geopolitical consequences of the war were "catastrophic" not only for Armenia but for Russia as well, because Moscow's influence in the Southern Caucasus had dwindled while "the prestige of a successful and feisty Turkey, contrariwise, ha[d] increased immensely". Alexander Gabuev of the Carnegie Moscow Center took the opposite view, describing the peace agreement as "a win for Russia", as it had "prevented the conclusive defeat of Nagorno-Karabakh" and, by placing Russia in charge of the strategic Lachin corridor, boosted the country's leverage in the region.
Azerbaijan's oil wealth allowed it to have a consistently higher military budget than Armenia, and it had purchased advanced weapons systems from Israel, Russia and Turkey. Despite the similar size of both militaries, Azerbaijan possessed superior tanks, armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, and had also amassed a fleet of Turkish and Israeli drones. Armenia built its own drones, but these were greatly inferior to Turkish and Israeli drones possessed by Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan had a quantitative advantage in artillery systems, particularly self-propelled guns and long-range multiple rocket launchers, while Armenia had a minor advantage in tactical ballistic missiles. Because of the air defence systems possessed by both sides, there was little use of manned aviation during the conflict. In the opinion of military analyst Michael Kofman, Director of the Russia Studies Program at the CNA and a Fellow at the Kennan Institute, Azerbaijan deployed mercenaries from Syria pursuing the goal of minimising Azeri troop casualties: "They took quite a few casualties early on, especially in the south-east, and these mercenaries were essentially used as expendable assault troops to go in the first wave. They calculated quite cynically that if it turned out these offensives were not successful early on, then it was best these casualties would be among mercenaries not Azerbaijani forces."
According to Gustav Gressel, a Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, the Armenian Army was superior to the Azerbaijani Army on a tactical level, with better officers, a more agile leadership, and more highly motivated soldiers but this was overcome by Azerbaijan's ability to use drones to discover both Armenian forward and reserve positions and then use conventional artillery and ballistic missiles to isolate and destroy Armenian forces. Gressel argues that European militaries are no better prepared for anti-drone warfare than Armenia's (with only France and Germany having some limited jamming capabilities) and warns that a lack of gun-based self-propelled air-defence systems and radar systems capable of "plot-fusion" (the ability to combine radar echoes from multiple radars) which is needed to track drones make European forces extremely vulnerable to loitering munitions and small drones.
In the opinion voiced by Russian military expert Vladimir Yevseev after the end of the war, for reasons that were not completely clear, Armenia appeared not to have executed the mobilisation it had announced and the mobilised personnel were hardly ever deployed to the area of conflict.
Azerbaijan made highly effective use of drones and sensors, demonstrating what The Economist described as a "new, more affordable type of air power". Azerbaijani drones, notably the Bayraktar TB2, were used to carry out precise strikes and carry out reconnaissance, relaying the coordinates of targets to Azerbaijani artillery. Commentators noted that the use of drones in Nagorno-Karabakh illustrated how they enabled small countries to conduct effective air campaigns, potentially making low-level conflicts much more deadly. Close air support was provided by specialized suicide drones, such as IAI Harop, rendering tanks vulnerable and suggesting changes are required to armored warfare doctrine. Another suicide drone, the Turkish-made STM Kargu, was also reportedly used by Azerbaijan.
Targeting of pipelines
Concerns were raised about the security of the petroleum industry in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan claimed that Armenia targeted, or tried to target, the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan pipeline, which accounted for around 80% of country's oil exports, and the Baku–Novorossiysk pipeline. Armenia rejected the accusations.
Use of propaganda
Both sides have engaged in extensive propaganda campaigns through the use of official mainstream and social media accounts magnified online, including in Russian media. The ability of drones to record their kills has enabled a highly effective Azerbaijani propaganda campaign. In Baku, digital billboards have broadcast high-resolution footage of missiles striking Armenian soldiers, tanks, and other materiel. Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev told Turkish television that Azerbaijani-operated drones had reduced the number of Azerbaijan's casualties, stating, "These drones show Turkey's strength" and "empowers" Azerbaijanis.
Hackers from Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as their allied countries have actively participated in cyberwarfare, with Azerbaijani hackers targeting Armenian websites and posting Aliyev's statements, and Greek hackers targeting Azerbaijani governmental websites. There has been coordinated efforts from both sides on social media regarding postings of content. Misinformation and videos of older events have been shared as new and different events related to the war. New social media account creation that post about Armenia and Azerbaijan has spiked, with many from authentic users, but many inauthentic accounts have also been detected.
Suspected war crimes
UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated that "indiscriminate attacks on populated areas anywhere, including in Stepanakert, Ganja and other localities in and around the immediate Nagorno-Karabakh zone of conflict, were totally unacceptable". Amnesty International stated that both Azerbaijani and Armenian forces committed war crimes during recent fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, and called on Azerbaijani and Armenian authorities to immediately conduct independent, impartial investigations, identify all those responsible, and bring them to justice.
Armenia struck several Azerbaijani cities outside of the conflict zone, most frequently Tartar, Beylagan and Barda. Attacks reported by Azerbaijani authorities included an attack on Beylagan on 4 October, killing two civilians and injuring 2 others, Goranboy on 8 October killing a civilian, Hadrut on 10 October, seriously injuring a medical worker, Fuzuli on 20 October, resulting in one civilian death and six injuries, Tartar on 20 October, resulting in two civilian deaths and one civilian injury and Tartar on 10 November, resulting in one civilian injury. By 9 November, there had been more than 93 civilian deaths and 416 civilian injuries in areas of Azerbaijan outside of the war zone.
Human Rights Watch reported that on 27 September, the Armenian forces had launched an artillery attack on Qaşaltı of Goranboy District, killing five members of the Gurbanov family, and damaged several homes. Human Rights Watch examined the severely damaged house and found several munition remnants in the courtyard that were consistent with fragments of large-caliber artillery. It also reported that the Armenian forces struck Hacıməmmədli of Aghdam District on 1 October, in an agricultural area, at around 11:00, killing two civilians. HRW stated that they had found no evident military objectives during their visit to the village. HRW also reported that the Armenian forces had launched an artillery attack on 4 October in Tap Qaraqoyunlu of Goranboy District at about 16:30, wounding a civilian. Then, on 5 October, Human Rights Watch reported that the Armenian forces fired a munition that landed in a field about 500 meters from Babı of Fuzuli District. The Azerbaijani authorities stated that they had identified the munition as a Scud-B ballistic missile and measured the crater as 15 meters in diameter.
Armenian forces heavily shelled the district of Tartar during the war, starting from 28 September. The bombardment caused widespread destruction and many civilian deaths. Thousands of people became refugees, making the city of Tartar a ghost town, and fled to neighboring cities such as Barda. The Azerbaijani authorities stated that the Armenian forces had fired 15,500 shells on the territory of Tartar District until 29 October, with over 2,000 shells being fired upon Tartar in some days. Official Azerbaijani figures show that over a thousand civilian objects, including schools, hospitals, and government buildings were either damaged or destroyed during the bombardment. Human Rights Watch confirmed many of the targeted attacks on civilians and civilian objects, such as kindergartens and hospitals, by the Armenian forces. It also stated that the Armenian military forces had carried out unlawfully indiscriminate rocket and missile strikes on the Azerbaijani territories, and that such indiscriminate attacks were war crimes. The constant bombardment of the city prompted the Azerbaijani to label Tartar as the Stalingrad of Azerbaijan, and the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, accused Armenia of trying to turn Tartar to the next Aghdam, also referred to as the Hiroshima of the Caucasus by the locals. Turkey also condemned the Armenian shelling of a cemetery in Tartar during a funeral ceremony, which foreign journalists at scene and Human Rights Watch confirmed. On 29 October, the head of the Tartar District Executive Power, Mustagim Mammadov, stated that during the war, 17 civilians killed, and 61 people injured in Tartar District as a result of the bombardment in Tartar. According to him, in total, about 1,200 people suffered from the bombardment. The Azerbaijani authorities reported two more civilian injuries later on.
Between 4 and 17 October, four separate missile attacks on the city of Ganja killed 26 civilians, including a 13-year-old Russian citizen, and injured 125 with women and children among the victims. The attacks were condemned by the European Union, and Azerbaijani authorities accused the Armenian Armed Forces of "committing war crimes through the firing of ballistic missiles at civilian settlements", calling the third attack "an act of genocide". Armenia denied responsibility for the attacks. The Artsakh Defence Army confirmed responsibility for the first attack but denied targeting residential areas, claiming that it had fired at at military targets, especially Ganja International Airport. Subsequently, both a correspondent reporting from the scene for a Russian media outlet and the airport director denied that the airport had been hit, while a BBC News journalist, Orla Guerin, visited the scene and found no evidence of any military target there.
On 15 October, the Armenian forces shelled a cemetery 400 metres (1,300 ft) north of the city of Tartar during a funeral ceremony, killing 4 civilians and injuring 4 more. This was confirmed by local journalists, Dozhd, and the Human Rights Watch. The Presidential Administration of Azerbaijan also confirmed that the cemetery was shelled in the morning.
On 25 October, a video emerged online of an Armenian teenager in civilian clothing helping soldiers fire artillery on Azerbaijani positions. Azerbaijan subsequently accused Armenia of using child soldiers. One day later, the Artsakh ombudsman released a statement claiming that the boy in the video was 16, was not directly engaged in military actions and was working with his father.
The Human Rights Watch reported that on 28 October, at about 17:00, the Armenian forces fired a munition on Tap Qaraqoyunlu of Goranboy District that produced fragmentation and killed a civilian.
The Artsakh Defence Army hit the Azerbaijani town of Barda with missiles twice on 27 and 28 October 2020, resulting in the deaths of 26 civilians and injuring over 83, making it the deadliest attack of the conflict. The casualties included a 39-year-old Red Crescent volunteer, while two other volunteers were injured. Civilian infrastructure and vehicles were extensively damaged. Armenia denied responsibility, but Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch stated that Armenia had fired, or intentionally supplied Artsakh with, the cluster munitions and Smerch rockets used in the attack. Artsakh acknowledged responsibility, but said it was targeting military facilities. Marie Struthers, Amnesty International's Regional Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said that the "firing of cluster munitions into civilian areas is cruel and reckless, and causes untold death, injury and misery". The Azerbaijani ombudsman called the attack a "terrorist act against civilians". The use of cluster munitions was also reported by The New York Times. On 7 November, according to Human Rights Watch, the Armenian forces fired a rocket that struck an agricultural field near the village of Əyricə and killed a 16-year-old boy while he playing with other children. Azerbaijani authorities stated that they had identified the munition as a 9M528 Smerch rocket, which carries a warhead that produces blast and fragmentation effect. HRW reported that the researchers did not observe any military objectives in the area.
On 30 October 2020, Human Rights Watch reported that Armenia or Artsakh forces used cluster munition and called that Armenia should immediately cease using cluster munitions or supplying them to Nagorno-Karabakh forces.
In mid-November, a video of a wounded Azerbaijani soldier Amin Musayev receiving first aid by Ukrainian journalist Alexander Kharchenko and Armenian soldiers after the ceasefire came into force was spread on social media platforms. Following this, a video was released showing Musayev being abused inside a vehicle. It is reported that he was lying on the ground in the car and asked: "where are we going?" In response, the alleged Armenian soldier said, "If you behave well, go home," and cursed, after which it became clear that the Azerbaijani soldier had been kicked. On 18 November, a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Yerevan said that information about this person was "being investigated." The ICRC's representative in Yerevan, Zara Amatuni, declined to say whether she had any information about Musayev. The Artsakh ombudsman said he had no information about the Azerbaijani soldier, but that if he was injured, he was "probably in hospital in Armenia." The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the issue was being investigated and will be reported to the relevant international organizations. According to the ministry, "the information about the torture of prisoners is first checked for accuracy and brought to the attention of relevant international organizations." On 25 November, ICRC's representatives visited Musayev and Karimov in Yerevan. On 5 December, the family of Musayev was informed of his condition through ICRC. According to a reported copy of the letter sent by Musayev, he stated that his condition was well. Musayev was returned to Azerbaijan on 15 December as part of the POW exchange deal. Azerbaijan had officially accused the Armenian side of ill-treating the Azerbaijani POWs. Several Azerbaijani POWs, in interviews with the Azerbaijani media outlets, had stated that they were tortured by their Armenian captors until being transferred back to Azerbaijan. Dilgam Asgarov, a Russian citizen of Azerbaijani descent, who was detained by the Armenian-allied forces alongside Shahbaz Guliyev, an Azerbaijani citizen, in 2014, during an incident in Kalbajar, in an interview to Virtual Azərbaycan newspaper he gave after being released, also stated that the Armenian captors had tortured the Azerbaijani POWs.
On 10 December, Amnesty International released a report on videos depicting war crimes. In one of the videos, the Armenian soldiers were seen cutting the throat of an Azerbaijani captive. The captive appears to be laying on the ground, whilst gagged and bound when an Armenian soldier approaches him and sticks a knife into his throat. Independent pathological analysis confirmed that the wound sustained led to his death in minutes. Eleven other videos showing inhumane treatment and outrages upon personal dignity of Azerbaijani captives by the Armenian army has come to light. In several videos, Armenian soldiers are seen cutting the ear off a dead Azerbaijani soldier, dragging a dead Azerbaijani soldier across the ground by a rope tied around his feet, and standing on the corpse of a dead Azerbaijani soldier.
On 11 December, Human Rights Watch released an extensive report about Armenia's unlawful rocket strikes on Azerbaijani civilian areas. The report investigated 18 separate strikes, which killed 40 civilians and wounded dozens more. During on-site investigations in Azerbaijan in November, Human Rights Watch documented 11 incidents in which Armenian forces used ballistic missiles, unguided artillery rockets, large-calibre artillery projectiles and cluster munitions that hit populated areas in apparently indiscriminate attacks. In at least four other cases, munitions struck civilians or civilian objects in areas where there were no apparent military targets. In addition to causing civilian casualties, the Armenian attacks damaged homes, businesses, schools, and a health clinic, and contributed to mass displacement. Human Rights Watch called the Armenian government to conduct transparent investigations into attacks by Armenian forces that violate international humanitarian law, or the laws of war. On 15 December, Human Rights Watch released another report about Armenia's use of cluster munitions in multiple attacks on Azerbaijani civilian areas. Its researchers documented four attacks with cluster munitions in three of the country's districts, Barda, Goranboy and Tartar which killed at least seven civilians, including two children, and wounded close to 20, including two children. Human Rights Watch also stated that as Nagorno-Karabakh forces do not possess cluster munitions, it is likely that Armenian forces carried out the attacks or supplied the munitions to Nagorno-Karabakh forces.
On 4 October 2020, the Armenian government stated Azerbaijan had deployed cluster munitions against residential targets in Stepanakert; an Amnesty International investigator condemned this. In an Amnesty International report, the cluster bombs were identified as "Israeli-made M095 DPICM cluster munitions that appear to have been fired by Azerbaijani forces". The next day, Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs Zohrab Mnatsakanyan stated to Fox News that the targeting of civilian populations in Nagorno-Karabakh by Azerbaijani forces was tantamount to war crimes and called for an end to the "aggression". In November 2020, Aliyev denied using cluster munitions against civilian areas in Stepanakert on the 1, 2, and 3 October 2020 in an interview with BBC News journalist Orla Guerin, describing as "fake news" the statements of other BBC reporters who witnessed the attacks and described them as "indiscriminate shelling of a town without clear military targets".
During an on-site investigation in Nagorno-Karabakh in October 2020, Human Rights Watch documented four incidents in which Azerbaijan used Israeli-made cluster munitions against civilian areas of Nagorno-Karabakh. The HRW investigation team stated that they did not find any sort of military sites in the residential neighborhoods where the cluster munitions were used and condemned its use against civilian-populated areas. Stephen Goose, arms division director at Human Rights Watch and chair of the Cluster Munition Coalition, stated that "the continued use of cluster munitions – particularly in populated areas – shows flagrant disregard for the safety of civilians". He then added that "the repeated use of cluster munitions by Azerbaijan should cease immediately as their continued use serves to heighten the danger for civilians for years to come". The HRW investigation team also noted that numerous civilian buildings and infrastructure were heavily damaged due to shelling.
On 16 December, Human Rights Watch published a report about two separate attacks, hours apart, on the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral on October 8 in the town of Shusha, known to Armenians as Shushi, suggesting that the church, a civilian object with cultural significance, was an intentional target despite the absence of evidence that it was used for military purposes. The weapon remnants Human Rights Watch collected at the site corroborate the use of guided munitions. “The two strikes on the church, the second one while journalists and other civilians had gathered at the site, appear to be deliberate,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “These attacks should be impartially investigated and those responsible held to account.” 
On 15 October 2020, a video surfaced of two captured Armenians being executed by Azerbaijani soldiers; Artsakh authorities identified one as a civilian. Bellingcat analysed the videos and concluded that the footage was real and that both executed were Armenian combatants captured by Azerbaijani forces between 9 and 15 October 2020 and later executed. The BBC also investigated the videos and confirmed that the videos were from Hadrut and were filmed some time between 9–15 October 2020. A probe has been launched by Armenia's human rights defender, Arman Tatoyan, who shared the videos with European Court of Human Rights and who will also show the videos to the UN human rights commissioner, the Council of Europe and other international organizations. The U.N. human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, stated that "in-depth investigations by media organisations into videos that appeared to show Azerbaijani troops summarily executing two captured Armenians in military uniforms uncovered compelling and deeply disturbing information".
On 10 December, Amnesty International released a report on videos depicting war crimes from both sides. In some of these videos, Azerbaijani soldiers were seen decapitating the head of an Armenian soldier as he was alive. In another video, the victim is an older man in civilian clothes who gets his throat cut before the video abruptly ends.
On 15 December, beheadings of two elderly ethnic Armenian non-combatants by Azerbaijani armed forces have been identified by Guardian, based on the videos widely shared on messaging apps, the testimony of relatives, villagers, Artsakh ombudsman and two Armenian human rights lawyers preparing a criminal case relating to the murders. In videos posted online on 22 November and 3 December, men in uniforms consistent with those of the Azerbaijani military hold down and decapitate a man using a knife. One then places the severed head on a dead animal. “This is how we get revenge – by cutting off heads,” a voice says off-camera. The victim was identified as Genadi Petrosyan, 69, who had moved to the village in the late 1980s from the city of Sumgait in Azerbaijan and resisted leaving the village as Azerbaijani forces closed in. A video posted on a Telegram channel on 7 December showed two soldiers in uniforms consistent with the Azerbaijani military pinning down an elderly man near a tree. Another soldier passes a knife to one of the attackers, who begins slicing at the victim's neck. The victim's head begins to separate from the neck before the video ends. The victim was identified as Yuri Asryan, a reclusive 82-year-old who had refused to leave the village on 20 October as Azerbaijani forces approached. In another video, a villager named Kamo Manasyan is kicked and beaten as blood streams from his right eye. “How many more of you are here,” his interrogator yells in heavily accented Russian, aiming a rifle at Manasyan's head. “Shoot me if you want,” Manasyan replies. The man hit him with the rifle instead.
|Nagorno-Karabakh hospital hit by shelling on YouTube|
On 16 October, according to Armenia's ombudsman report, an Azerbaijani serviceman had called the brother of an Armenian soldier from the latter's phone number, saying that his brother was with them and that they had beheaded him and were going to post his photos on the internet; according to Armenian sources, they did post the image online. The Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust included the beheading of an Armenian soldier in their reporting.
In early November, Armenia applied to European Convention on Human Rights over the videos of the brutal treatment of the bodies of Armenian POWs, which were spread on the social network. On November 23, ECHR announced that it applies urgent measures in case of Armenian POWs and civilians held in Azerbaijan. Michael Rubin of the Washington Examiner, referring to the beheadings, the torture and mutilations of POWs, stated that, in contrast to Aliyev's reassurance of ethnic Armenians on remaining as residents of Azerbaijan, the actions of the Azerbaijani servicemen "tell a different story". Human Rights Watch reported about the videos depicting physical abuse and humiliation of Armenian POWs by their Azerbaijani captors, adding that the most of the captors did not fear being held accountable, as their faces were visible in the videos. HRW spoke with the families of some of the POWs in the videos, who provided photographs and other documents establishing their identity, and confirmed that these relatives were serving either in the Artsakh Defence Army, or the Armenian armed forces.
A criminal case was opened in Azerbaijan over the Armenian POWs videos with the country's Prosecutor General's Office stating that inhuman treatment could result in the criminal prosecution of some soldiers serving in the Azerbaijani Armed Forces. It also stated that many of these videos were fake. On 14 December, the Azerbaijani security forces arrested two Azerbaijani privates and two other warrant officers accused of insulting the bodies of the Armenian servicemen and gravestones belonging to Armenians. The Azerbaijani human rights activists considered the government reaction to the suspected war crimes to be adequate, although some Azerbaijani social media users argued about whether their persecution was justified, also criticizing Armenia not investigating its suspected war crimes.
White phosphorus use allegations
In late October and early November, Azerbaijan accused the Armenian forces of using white phosphorus on civilian areas. Then, on 4 November, Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA) found unexploded white phosphorus munitions in Səhləbad, near Tartar, which, according to Azerbaijan, was fired by the Armenian forces. Azerbaijani authorities had also stated that the Armenian forces were transporting white phosphorus into the region. On 20 November, Prosecutor General's Office of Azerbaijan filed a lawsuit, accusing the Armenian Armed Forces of using phosphorus ammunition in Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as in Tartar District, and chemical munitions to "inflict large-scale and long-term harm to the environment" in Fuzuli and Tartar Districts, as well as around Shusha.
On 30 October, Armenian and Artsakh authorities had accused the Azerbaijani forces of using phosphorus to burn forests near Shusha. This was supported by "Ecocide alert" from 51 non-governmental organizations under the auspices of Transparency International. France 24 reported that Azerbaijan could've used white phosphorus during the war, highlighting that the use of white phosphorus is strictly regulated under an international agreement that neither Azerbaijan nor Armenia have signed. The Independent's reporter had a chance to visit the National Burns Centre in Yerevan to see the soldiers' burns, which, according to deputy director of that centre, are consistent with white phosphorus damage in 80% cases. Patrick Knipper, orthopedic surgeon and specialist in severe burns at the Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris, who was in Yerevan as part of a French assistance mission to help with the treatment of the injured arriving from the front, provided the first independent confirmation of burns being the result of white phosphorus munition use to Le Point magazine, highlighting the characteristic deep burns, hypocalcaemia and sudden deaths in his conclusion  Azerbaijan issued a denial. Two Russian military experts did not find evidence provided by the Armenian side to be convincing, and expressed their doubts that white phosphorus was used by either side of the conflict.
Armenia and Artsakh
On 27 September 2020, the Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, accused the Azerbaijani authorities of a large-scale provocation. The Prime Minister stated that the "recent aggressive statements of the Azerbaijani leadership, large-scale joint military exercises with Turkey, as well as the rejection of OSCE proposals for monitoring" indicated that the aggression was pre-planned and constituted a major violation of regional peace and security. The next day, Armenia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) issued a statement, noting that the "people of Artsakh were at war with the Turkish–Azerbaijani alliance".
The same day, the Armenian ambassador to Russia, Vardan Toganyan, did not rule out that Armenia may turn to Russia for fresh arms supplies. On 29 September 2020, Prime Minister Pashinyan stated that Azerbaijan, with military support from Turkey, was expanding the theater into Armenian territory. On 30 September 2020, Pashinyan stated that Armenia was considering officially recognizing the Republic of Artsakh as an independent territory. The same day, the Armenian MoFA stated that the Turkish Air Force had carried out provocative flights along the front between the forces of the Republic of Artsakh and Azerbaijan, including providing air support to the Azerbaijani army.
On 1 October 2020, the President of Artsakh, Arayik Harutyunyan, stated that Armenians needed to prepare for a long-term war. Two days later, the Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) Foreign Ministry called on the international community to recognize the independence of the Republic of Artsakh in order to restore regional peace and security.
On 6 October 2020, the Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, stated that the Armenian side was prepared to make concessions, if Azerbaijan was ready to reciprocate.
On 9 October 2020, Armen Sarkissian demanded that international powers, particularly, the United States, Russia and NATO, do more to stop Turkey's involvement in the war and warned that Ankara is creating "another Syria in the Caucasus".
On 21 October 2020, Nikol Pashinyan stated that "it is impossible to talk about a diplomatic solution at this stage, at least at this stage", since the compromise option is not acceptable for Azerbaijan, while the Armenian side stated many times that it is ready to resolve the issue through compromises. Pashinyan said that "to fight for the rights of our people means, first of all, to take up arms and commit to the protection of the rights of the homeland".
On 12 November 2020, Pashinyan addressed his nation, saying that "Armenia and the Armenian people are living extremely difficult days. There is sorrow in the hearts of all of us, tears in the eyes of all of us, pain in the souls of all of us". The prime minister pointed out that the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Armenia reported that the war "must be stopped immediately". And the President of Artsakh warned that if the hostilities do not stop, Stepanakert could be lost in days. Pashinyan also stated that the Karabakh issue was not resolved and is not resolved and that the international recognition of the Artsakh Republic is becoming an absolute priority.
The day before the conflict, on 26 September 2020, according to the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence, the Armenian military violated the ceasefire 48 times along the line of contact. Azerbaijan stated that the Armenian side attacked first, prompting an Azerbaijani counter-offensive.
On 27 September 2020, Azerbaijan accused Armenian forces of a "willful and deliberate" attack on the front line and of targeting civilian areas, alleging a "gross violation of international humanitarian law". On 28 September 2020, it stated that Armenia's actions had destroyed the peace negotiations through an act of aggression, alleged that a war had been launched against Azerbaijan, mobilized the people of Azerbaijan, and declared a Great Patriotic War. It then stated that the deployment of the Armenian military in Nagorno-Karabakh constituted a threat to regional peace and accused Armenia of propagandising, adding that the Azerbaijani military was operating according to international law. The Azerbaijani authorities issued a statement accusing the Armenian military of purposefully targeting civilians, including women and children. The Azerbaijani Minister of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) denied any reports of Turkish involvement, while admitting military-technical cooperation with Turkey and other countries.
On 29 September 2020, the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, spoke about Azerbaijan's territorial integrity. Aliyev stated that Armenian control of the area and aggression had led to the destruction of infrastructure and mosques, caused the Khojaly massacre, and resulted in cultural genocide, insulting the Muslim world and being tantamount to state-backed Islamophobia and anti-Azerbaijani sentiment. The Azerbaijani MoFA demanded that Armenia stop shelling civilians and called on international organizations to ensure Armenia followed international law. The Azerbaijani Ambassador to Russia denied reports of mercenaries brought in from Turkey by Azerbaijan, and the First Vice-President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Mehriban Aliyeva, stated that Azerbaijan had never laid claim to others' territory nor committed crimes against humanity.
On 3 October 2020, Aliyev stated that Armenia needed to leave Azerbaijan's territory (in Nagorno-Karabakh) for the war to stop. The next day, Aliyev issued an official statement that Azerbaijan was "writing a new history", describing Karabakh as an ancient Azerbaijani territory and longstanding home to Azerbaijanis, and noting that Armenians had occupied Azerbaijan's territory, destroying its religious and cultural heritage, for three decades. He added that Azerbaijan would restore its cities and destroyed mosques and accused Armenia of distorting history.
Two days later, Aliyev's aide, Hikmat Hajiyev, claimed that Armenia had deployed cluster munitions against cities, however this has not been verified by other sources. On 7 October 2020, Azerbaijan officially notified members of the World Conference on Constitutional Justice, the Conference of European Constitutional Courts, the Association of Asian Constitutional Courts and similar organizations that it had launched the operation in line with international law to re-establish its internationally recognized territorial integrity and for the safety of its people. He also accused Armenia of ethnic discrimination on account of the historical expulsion or self-exile of ethnic minority communities, highlighting its mono-ethnic population.
On 10 October 2020, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov stated that the truce signed on the same day was temporary. Despite this, Aliyev stated that both parties were now attempting to determine a political resolution to the conflict.
On 21 October 2020, Aliyev stated that Azerbaijan did not rule out the introduction of international observers and peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh, but will put forward some conditions when the time comes. He then added that Azerbaijan did not agree for a referendum in Nagorno-Karabakh, but didn't exclude the cultural autonomy of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, and reaffirmed that the Azerbaijan considers Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh as their citizens, promising security and rights.
On 26 October 2020, Aliyev stated that the Azerbaijani government will inspect and record the destruction by Armenian forces in Armenian-occupied territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Allegations of third-party involvement
Because of the geography, history, and sensitivities of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, accusations, allegations, and statements have been made of involvement by third-party and international actors, including in media reports. Azerbaijan has been accused of employing Syrian mercenaries during the war, including reports by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). There have also been allegations of Kurdish militia from Syria and Iraq fighting on the Armenian side, and although some third-party sources had confirmed it, some publications had considered these claims "dubious". During the war, Armenia also had employed ethnic Armenian volunteers from the Middle East, Europe, and Latin America. Both sides have denied employing mercenaries in the war, but the OHCHR had stated that there were reports about mercenaries on both sides, and called for their withdrawal from Nagorno-Karabakh.
On 7 October 2020, Artsakh's Presidential Spokesman Vahram Poghosyan said that according to intelligence, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had reached an agreement with the leader of the Islamic Party of Afghanistan (Hezb-e-Islam) Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to involve "new terrorist groups in the war against Artsakh". On 17 October 2020, Armenia's National Security Service (NSS) stated that the Azerbaijani side is engaged in the transportation of a large amount of ammunition and mercenaries to its territory, citing the flights of Silk Way's Boeing 747 and Il-76 planes from Baku to air bases in different countries as evidence. According to the Armenian NSS, the Baku-Bagram flight was registered on October 16, and the Bagram-Lashkar Gah-Baku flight on October 17. The Armenian NSS reported that the same route was scheduled for October 18 and flights from Baku to Kandahar. It also notes that information on some of these flights is absent in the system of international timetables, and a number of airports do not have an international classification. On 2 October 2020, Afghanistan's declared diplomatic support for Azerbaijan prompted Armenia to push for an end to Kabul's observer status in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russian-led regional alliance.
Armenian diaspora volunteers
On 28 September 2020, the Azerbaijani MoD alleged that among the Armenian casualties were "mercenaries" of Armenian origin from Syria and a variety of Middle East countries. On the same day, the Turkish Minister of Defence stated that Armenia must "send back the mercenaries and terrorists it brought from abroad". Two days later, Azerbaijani authorities asked the international community to "adequately respond to the use of terrorist forces by Armenia". On 30 September 2020, the SOHR also stated that Armenian-born Syrian fighters were being transported to Armenia to fight against Azerbaijan. The next day, Azerbaijani authorities stated that Armenia had widely employed foreign "terrorist forces" and "mercenaries" against it, with there being evidence of people of Armenian origin from the Middle East, especially Syria and Lebanon, and subsequently Russia, Georgia, Greece, the United Arab Emirates, and other countries. A Novaya Gazeta report, citing Lebanese Ministry of Internal Affairs intelligence, stated around 500 ethnic Armenian Lebanese had travelled to fight in Nagorno-Karabakh. In early October, Komsomolskaya Pravda reported that Armenians from Lebanon, who were members of Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia, a militant group listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, had supported Armenia in the war. Greek City Times have reported that about 500–800 Armenians from Greece, as well as some Greeks volunteered to the war on Armenia's side. An Armenian defence ministry official had said many from the diaspora applied to volunteer without giving a precise number. Hundreds from as far afield as Argentina and the United States have rushed back to Armenia for combat training, a local instructor says. Karapet Aghajanyan, the combat instructor in Yerevan, who trains local and foreign volunteers, told Reuters around 10 Lebanese-Armenians had received training in his camp. France 24 spoke to soldiers including Armenian diaspora from France fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh.
On 30 September 2020, Turkish sources alleged that approximately 300 Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants were transported to Nagorno-Karabakh via Iran. However, according to Eurasianet and The Jerusalem Post, these claims were not substantiated by evidence. On 6 October 2020, the Azerbaijani State Security Service (SSS) claimed, citing intercepts, which it released as an evidence, that Armenia had employed foreign mercenaries, including members of Kurdish militant groups whom Armenia had brought from Iraq and Syria, to fight Azerbaijan. On the same day, Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service alleged that there were Kurdish extremist groups, which, according to Al-Monitor, are fighting on the Armenian side, while there is no direct evidence of it. In early October, Komsomolskaya Pravda reported that there was evidence of Armenia being supported by the Martyr Nubar Ozanyan Brigade militants, part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, and associated with the PKK. Also, Luke Coffey, an American political advisor and director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation, citing his sources, stated that up to 100 PKK fighters were in Stepanakert to fight against Azerbaijan. This was denied by Armenia.
On 17 October 2020, the Armenian National Security Service stated that Azerbaijan was smuggling in a significant amount of ammunition, mercenaries and "terrorists" from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan rejected this allegation as "irresponsible propaganda", and said the claims by the Armenian government had no substance. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in an interview with the Indian media WION that there was "information that militants from Pakistan are involved in the war against Karabakh." He told Russian reporters about Pakistan's active role in the conflict. The President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, stated that Pakistan had supported Baku diplomatically "but military assistance is out of the question." On 28 October 2020, based on allegations of "unknown" sources, Kommersant reported that at least one batch of militants with weapons and ammunition were formed and sent from Pakistan's Peshawar to Karabakh.
On 9 November, the day when the ceasefire agreement was signed, the Azerbaijani forces in Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic accidentally shot down a Russian Mil Mi-24 attack helicopter near Yeraskh, in Armenia. According to Anton Troianovski and Carlotta Gall of The New York Times, this potentially gave Russia a reason to intervene in the war, and the Russian president Vladimir Putin delivered an ultimatum to the Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev. According to Troianovski and Gall, in this ultimatum, Russia stated that if Azerbaijan did not cease its operations after seizing control of Shusha, it will intervene. The same night, an unknown missile hit an open area in Khyrdalan, near Baku, without causing any injuries, according to the Azerbaijani sources. Also, yet again on the same day, a video emerged on the social media apparently showing the Armenian forces launching a Russian-made Iskander missile into Azerbaijan. The former Head of the Military Control Service of the Armenian MoD Movses Hakobyan, after resigning from his post on 19 November 2020, stated that Armenia used an Iskander missile on Azerbaijan, though he did not say where the missile hit. Armenia's Prosecutor General's office said in a Facebook post that it would investigate Hakobyan's allegations. A Defense Ministry spokeswoman didn't respond to phone calls seeking comment. According to Can Kasapoğlu, the Director of Security and Defense Studies Program at the Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies, an Istanbul-based independent think-tank, Armenia could've used Iskander missiles only with the Russian consent.
On 28 September, Russian media reported that Russian private military companies were ready to fight against Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh. On 1 October, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, citing a Wagner Group source, claimed they were already in Nagorno-Karabakh and participating in hostilities. The Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer also stated that Wagner contractors were sent to support the Armenian forces as ATGM operators. After the war, in December 2020, a photo of a Wagner mercenary, apparently taken in front a church in Shusha during the war, appeared on the internet. Also, the Russian media leaked a message, apparently describing how the Armenian government refused to pay the Russian mercenaries for their work, and how, because of the, some of the Wagner mercenaries intended to return to Russia or defect to the Azerbaijani side. The Russian media reported that, in November, there were about 500 Russian mercenaries fighting on the Armenian side, and some 300 Russian mercenaries had taken part in the Battle of Shusha, with Victor Zlobov, a retired captain of the Russian Armed Forces, stating that Shusha was "defended mainly thanks to the Russian volunteers."
The Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has been linked to the Wagner Group, denied any involvement of the Russian PMCs in the war. According to the Armenian journalist Karine Ghazaryan, writing for Bellingcat, there was no "any firm evidence showing their arrival or involvement in the war." She stated that Reverse Side of the Medal (RSOTM), a media channel linked to Wagner Group, which, according to Ghazaryan, was the main source of the reports, was not the "breaking news source."
Turkey and Syrian National Army
Prior to the beginning of the conflict, Turkey's upped rhetoric against Armenia, as well as its recruitment of several hundred Syrian refugees had been reported the previous week by Syrian commentators, activists and others on social media, circulated among Syrian refugees, dissidents and others who monitor Syria. Detailed reporting on the evidence of Syrian fighters in Azerbaijan exists, as well as apparent Turkish military involvement, causing international concern. Two days into the conflict, several Syrian National Army (SNA) members and the SOHR reported that a private Turkish security company was recruiting Syrians to fight in Artsakh; Azerbaijan  and Turkey issued denials. France24, The Independent and The Guardian have reported evidence of Syrian mercenaries recruited in Syria by Turkey to fight alongside the Azerbaijani servicemen in Nagorno-Karabakh. A report in The Times partially confirmed Turkish involvement in sending 200 Syrian fighters to support Azerbaijani forces; a Turkish-based source reported that these were acting independently of the SNA.
Emmanuel Macron accused Turkey of dispatching Syrian "jihadists" to Nagorno-Karabakh via Gaziantep while Russia expressed concern over "illegal armed units" from Syria and Libya being present in the conflict zone. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reiterated Macron's concerns. On 3 October 2020, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated that Syrian fighters, together with Turkish army specialists, were involved, along with circa 150 senior Turkish military officers, allegedly directing military operations. The National Security Service of Armenia presented intercepts, allegedly between the Turkish and Azerbaijani military, and between the Azerbaijani military and mercenaries. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that Turkey's involvement in the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia has increased the risk in the region, inflaming the situation by arming the Azerbaijanis.
On 2 October 2020, Russian investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported 700–1,000 militants had apparently been sent to Azerbaijan and detailed their transport and recruitment itinerary, referring to the Hamza Division and the Samarkand and Nureddin Zinki Brigades. The Georgian State Security Service stated news about the passage of Syrian fighters from Turkey through Georgia to Azerbaijan was disinformation. On 3 October 2020, Elizabeth Tsurkov, an American expert on Syria, reported on videos of Arabic-speaking foreigners, who she identified as likely Syrian mercenaries in Horadiz, urging compatriots to join them. Subsequently, Tsurkov detailed the recruitment, by the Hamza Division and Sultan Murad and Sultan Suleyman Shah Brigades, of at least a thousand mercenaries to Azerbaijan, including civilians with no fighting experience who had been informed they would be guarding oil facilities but were then sent to the front. On 5 October 2020, Russian News Agency RIA Novosti stated that 322 Syrian mercenaries were in the conflict zone and that 93 had been killed, while 430 from Syria had already arrived. On 6 October 2020, Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service alleged that several thousand fighters from Middle East terrorist organizations had arrived in Nagorno-Karabakh to fight for Azerbaijan, specifically from Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaeda branch), Firkat Hamza, and the Sultan Murad Division, stating all were linked to the Islamic State (ISIL). On 7 October 2020, Asia Times reported that mercenaries allegedly signed up to go to Azerbaijan for US$1,500 a month. Kommersant states that during the first week of October up to 1,300 Syrian militants and 150 Libyan mercenaries deployed to Azerbaijan.
On 16 October 2020, Kommersant provided details of Turkish military involvement. Turkish servicemen had apparently remained in Azerbaijan after joint military drills during the summer, to coordinate and direct the planning and conducting of the operations. Six hundred servicemen had stayed on, including a tactical battalion of 200 people, 50 instructors in Nakhchivan, 90 military advisers in Baku, 120 flight personnel at the airbase in Qabala; 20 drone operators at Dollyar Air Base, 50 instructors at the aviabase in Yevlakh, 50 instructors in the 4th Army Corps in Perekeshkul and 20 others at the naval base and Azerbaijan Higher Military Academy in Baku. According to the source, forces included 18 Turkish infantry fighting vehicles, one multiple launch rocket system, 10 vehicles and up to 34 aircraft, including 6 warplanes, 8 helicopters and up to 20 military intelligence drones.
Canada suspended the export of its drone technology to Turkey over concerns that it is using the technology in the conflict. On 11 January 2021, after being approached by the Embassy of Armenia, Hampshire-based UK aircraft component manufacturer Andair announced halting supply of Turkish drone manufacturer Baykar Makina - a subsidiary of Turkish Defence Company Baykar, as they were using components from Andair for armed drones. The British manufacturer became the latest company to stop selling equipment to Turkey after its components were found in drones shot down during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
At the start of the conflict, according to the SOHR, a total of 320 Syrian fighters were in Azerbaijan, primarily of Syrian-Turkmen descent from the Sultan Murad Division, and initially had not participated in the fighting. It stated that Arab-majority Syrian rebel groups had in fact refused to send their fighters to Azerbaijan. However, the SOHR confirmed the deaths of 28 fighters several days after the start of the conflict. On 3 December 2020, the SOHR stated that at least 541 pro-Turkey Syrian rebel fighters, who were among more than 2,580 combatants, had been killed in the war. An unidentified SNA leader, The Guardian and The Washington Post confirmed the deaths of dozens of Syrian fighters, most of them hired by Turkey. Prime Minister Pashinyan in an interview given to French newspaper Le Figaro wrote that 30% of Azerbaijani forces killed in hostilities were foreign mercenaries.
On 27 January 2020, the European Parliament adopted a resolution in which it strongly condemned Turkey's “destabilizing role” in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, accusing Ankara of sending foreign terrorist fighters from Syria and elsewhere to the conflict zone as confirmed by international actors, including the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries, and called for an end to Turkish military aid to Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijani officials, including President Aliyev and his aid Hikmet Hajiyev, denied the transfer of Syrian mercenaries, with Hajiyev stating that "Rumours of militants from Syria allegedly being redeployed to Azerbaijan is another provocation by the Armenian side." Jason Epstein, a public affairs consultant, and Irina Tsukerman, an American national security analyst stated in their opinion article that because of its “improved standing military and sophisticated and effective weapons”, Azerbaijan did not need foreign fighters, including Syrians. Nezavisimaya Gazeta and Rosbalt also questioned "the sources of information" of the accusations regarding the participation of Syrian mercenaries in the war, pointing to the study by the Caspian and Black Sea Analysis Foundation (CCBS), a Bulgaria-based analytical center, which mentioned that the accusations were based on messages from social media users, and also suggested that the first publication on this matter was done on 21 September by Kevork Almasyan of whose statement was then used by adding random photos of Syrian fighters as evidence. CCBS further mentioned that even the photograph of a deceased soldier (Serdar Temelli), who had died during the Turkish Operation Tiger Claw in northern Iraq, was used to illustrate the mercenaries in Karabakh. Historian and Russian literature researcher Boris Sokolov in his article in the Kyiv-based The Day, stated that there was "no convincing evidence" of the presence of Syrian mercenaries. Anar Valiyev, the dean of School of Public and International Affairs of the ADA University, writing for Program on New Approaches to Research and Security in Eurasia, one of the programs of the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies of the The George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, based in Washington, D.C., had argued that it would have taken sophisticated logistics for Azerbaijan to "transport and house hundreds or thousands of hidden fighters", adding that the higher the number, the higher was the chance of "actual photographs or videos circulating on the Internet." Valiyev also stated that it was "illogical for Azerbaijan to hire mercenaries from Syria" as the Syrian soldiers generally specialized in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, and other desert landscapes, but the war terrain Nagorno-Karabakh was mountainous and forested. He also argued that as the Azerbaijani and Syrians soldiers could not able to communicate as their native languages are not similar to each other, making it "difficult to incorporate foreigners into the regular army," while there was also "high risks that a mercenary might turn his weapons on his host." Another factor mentioned by Valiyev was that it would be abnormal for the Syrian mercenaries from Sunni-based organizations to fight for nominally Shi'a Azerbaijan. ANNA News correspondent Alexander Kharchenko, who reported from the Armenian positions during the war, in an interview he gave to Vladimir Solovyov on 14 November 2020, stated that he only saw and talked to Azerbaijani POWs, adding that he did not see any Syrian militants or Turkish special forces in the battlefield, and that the Armenians did not show him any documention of third-party involvement on the Azerbaijani side.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (STIPI), Israel provided nearly two-thirds of all arms imports to Azerbaijan over 2020, which, according to STIPI, have had a significant influence on how the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war was fought. The institute stated that Israel had provided the IAI Harop, as well as M095 DPICM cluster munitions that were declared illegal by the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2008.
Israel was reported by the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya to have continued shipping weapons, especially drones, during the war. "Azerbaijan would not be able to continue its operation at this intensity without our support," an unnamed "senior source" reportedly in the Israeli Ministry of Defense said in an interview with Asia Times. "Azerbaijan is an important country for us; we always try to be a good supplier even during times of tension, we have to make sure that we will honor the contracts we make with Azerbaijan," Efraim Inbar, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security told Times of Israel. Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported to have flagged significant airlift of arms and supplies from Israel to Azerbaijan during the conflict.
In an interview with David Barsamian of Alternative Radio, American scientist and political activist Noam Chomsky said that "The immediate crisis came when Azerbaijan, surely with Turkish backing [and] Israeli arms pouring in [attacked Armenia]" and that this aid came from "Ben Gurion airport in Israel, [with] Ilyushin planes coming in and out, while no other planes are flying into Baku" and that they were "sending Israeli arms to Azerbaijan so they can kill people, Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh". In an open letter on 5 October, a group of Israeli scholars of Caucasian and associated studies from different institutions called upon the Israeli government to "immediately cease arms sales to Azerbaijan", followed by the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) statement on 15 October calling on the Israeli government "to cease all exports of weapons to Azerbaijan while the conflict is ongoing, and instead to play a role as a peace-seeking mediator."
Russia, Iran and Georgia
During the conflict, unverified video footages reportedly showing Russian weaponry and military hardware being transported to Armenia via Iran were posted on social media. On 29 September 2020, the Iranian Foreign Ministry denied these reports. The next day, Azerbaijani government-affiliated media outlets shared footage reportedly showing the materiel being transported. Azerbaijani MP Sabir Rustamkhanli stated that Iran was engaged in transporting weapons from various countries to Armenia. Subsequently, in the Azerbaijani Parliament, Rustamkhanli suggested opening an Azerbaijani embassy in Israel. The Chief of Staff of the President of Iran, in a phone call with the Deputy Prime Minister of Azerbaijan, denied the reports and stated that they were aimed at disrupting both countries' relations. Iranian state-affiliated media stated that trucks depicted in the footage consisted of shipments of Kamaz trucks that the Armenian government had previously purchased from Russia.
Azerbaijan's president initially stated that Georgia had not allowed the transportation of weapons through its territory and thanked Georgia, as a partner and friend. However, in a subsequent interview, he stated that Armenia was misusing one of its Il-76 cargo planes for civil flights, to secretly transport fighters and Kornet anti-tank missiles from Russia through Georgian airspace into Armenia. Georgia responded by stating that its airspace was closed to all military and military cargo flights but not for civil and humanitarian ones.
Azerbaijan has stated that Armenia is employing Serbian weapons, alleged to have been transported via Georgia. In response, the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, stated that Serbia considers both Armenia and Azerbaijan to be friends and "brotherly nations", insisting that Serbian weapons were not being used in Nagorno-Karabakh.
- Denied by Azerbaijan and Turkey.
- Turkey and Azerbaijan deny direct involvement of Turkey.
- Alleged by Azerbaijan, and some Armenian military officials, also reports that Russia supplied arms to Armenia via Iran. It has been denied by Iran.
- On 18 January 2021, the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Azerbaijan published a list of 2,855 servicemen it said were killed during the war, although at least two of the soldiers named were killed after the conflict ended, leaving a total of 2,853 servicemen confirmed killed in the war.
- At the end of Soviet period, the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast was recorded as being populated by 76.9% Armenians, 21.5% Azerbaijanis, and 1.5% other groups, totalling 188,685 persons, in the 1989 census. The surrounding districts, occupied by the Republic of Artsakh since the 1994 ceasefire, were recorded in the 1979 census to have a population of 97.7% Azerbaijanis, 1.3% Kurds, 0.7% Russians, 0.1% Armenians, and 0.1% Lezgins, for a total of 186,874 persons. This does not include the populations of Fuzuli District and Agdam District, which were only partially under Armenian control before the 2020 war.
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