After a cycle of escalation and de-escalation over the course of a week starting from July 12, when Azerbaijani forces launched an attack on Armenian border posts near the village of Movses, the situation seems to have entered a period of relative calm. As units of the Armenian Armed Forces continue to man the Armenia-Azerbaijan state border, residents of the towns and villages of the Tavush region that came under intensive Azerbaijani shelling are trying to return to their normal routine. The process of repairing and rebuilding residential homes and civilian infrastructure are underway and cattle and produce farmers are returning to their tasks.
Regional Governor of Tavush Hayk Chobanyan has said that reconstruction activities that have started in the border communities after the escalation of tensions, will soon be replaced with more comprehensive development projects. Addressing any problems on the border villages directly impacts and strengthens the security of borders, he noted. The Ministry of Education is assessing the situation in the region and will be collaborating with local-self-government bodies to ensure that schools in all the regional communities have safety measures and shelters in place before classes resume.
Below is a summary of the past three days (July 18-20) on the Armenia-Azerbaijan state border.
Relative calm has been maintained at the Armenia-Azerbaijan border since the evening of July 19 and the early morning hours of July 20. According to Armenia’s Defense Ministry Spokesperson, Azerbaijani Armed Forces violated the ceasefire regime nine times using firearms on different parts of the border, firing in the direction of Armenian posts with approximately 137 rounds. Azerbaijani forces twice utilized AGS-17 grenade launchers in the direction of military posts located near Chambarak; Armenian side returned fire. Indiscriminate shots were fired four times in the direction of military posts located near Chinari, Nerkin Karmiraghbyur, Berkaber and Berdavan. The Armenian side did not return fire. Indiscriminate firing was also registered in the direction of military posts near Khndzorut and Paruyr Sevak.
Soldiers Insurance Fund
In a Facebook post, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said they have been receiving many letters and calls from Armenians who are interested to know how they can provide financial support to Armenia’s Armed Forces. He asked all those who wish to help to donate to the Soldiers Insurance Fund (SID). Donations can be made online on the following website. As a reminder, the families of the servicemen who died and those who were injured during the clashes on the border will be compensated by the SID.
From July 17 to July 20, donations to the Fund have significantly increased. Over 300 donations were made over the last three days, raising approximately 13 million AMD from over 20 countries across the world.
Live Press Briefing from Tavush [11 a.m.]
Artsrun Hovhannisyan presented the operational situation along the Armenian state borders during a daily briefing from Ijevan, Tavush. As the spokesperson of the Ministry Defense said, the relatively calm situation was maintained on the border and the Azerbaijani side fired in the direction of Armenian posts with approximately 137 rounds. Indiscriminate shots were fired in the direction of a number of military posts along the line of contact and the Armenian side mostly did not return the fire. The adversary also fired in the direction of Chambarak using grenade launchers. The Armenian military responded to all the targeted firing. The condition of the wounded soldiers has not changed and one of them remains in extremely critical condition. According to Hovhannisyan conscripts serving with the Third Army Corps of Armenia’s Defense Army, who are not even involved in the military actions, have sent a request to their commanders asking to temporarily suspend their decommissioning, until the adversary has been completely silenced.
Hayk Chobanyan, the regional governor of Tavush, noted that the residents of border communities remain actively involved in their daily operations and economic life has fully resumed. He went on to say that reconstruction activities that have started in the border communities after the escalation of tensions on the Armenia-Azerbaijani border, will soon be replaced with more comprehensive development projects. Addressing any problems on the border villages directly impacts and strengthens the security of borders. The governor said that the newly created commission has already identified all the structures that were damaged in border communities because of Azerbaijani shelling.
Another commission was created that will be tasked to assess the impact of the escalation on the agriculture sector (cattle farms and agricultural land in particular). Chobanyan expressed hope that the commission will finalize its findings in a few days. Also, a commission focused on socio-psychological issues was created, with the involvement of representatives of NGOs and international organizations that work in the Tavush region (World Vision, Bridge of Hope and Armenian Relief Fund). The commission will not only provide psychological assistance to all those residents of border committees impacted by the recent developments, but also organize summer activities for children, in compliance with the anti-pandemic rules and regulations.
Chobanyan reminded about all the fundraising efforts for the affected communities that the regional administration has identified and are credible. He said that all the raised funds will be directed to addressing some of the most pressing problems of the region, and development projects in border communities. The governor announced that the regional administration of Tavush is planning to hold an online investment conference in September. The goal of the conference is to once again speak about the strategic development programs that will not only strengthen Armenia’s economy but also the country’s borders. The official announcement will be released in the coming few days.
Dmitry Peskov on Armenian-Azerbaijani Tensions
Dmitry Peskov, the spokesperson of the Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that Russia hopes that the situation on the Armenai-Azerbaijani border will soon be resolved. He noted that many Armenians and Azerbaijanis live in Russia, who are respectable citizens of the Russian Federation. Peskov went on to say that the recent escalation of the situation on the Armenia-Azerbaijani border, did not leave these people indifferent and they are reacting emotionally.
Last week, Armenian drivers who arrived in Moscow carrying Armenian apricots, were refused to enter and sell their products at Food City, a large wholesale market in Moscow. Later, it was confirmed that the market is owned by two Azerbaijanis, who prohibited Armenian sellers from entering the market. Armenians living in Moscow, quickly mobilized and bought almost all of the apricots.
At 9 a.m., Armenia’s Defense Ministry Spokesperson reported that relative calm has been maintained at the Armenia-Azerbaijan border since the evening of July 18 until the early morning hours of July 19. Azerbaijani military units shot 70 rounds from firearms at different portions of the border overnight. All units of Armenia’s Armed Forces are vigilantly containing the adversary along the entire length of the border.
Live Press Briefing from Tavush [6 p.m.]
Artsrun Hovhannisyan presented the operational situation along the Armenian state borders during a daily briefing from Ijevan, Tavush. He said that over the entire length of the frontline, the situation was relatively calm since the evening of July 18 and that the ceasefire regime was violated about 70 times. The situation remains under the control of the Armenian military.
Arayik Harutyunyan, the Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport said that today along with the regional governor of Tavush, he visited a number of border communities, including Aygepar, Nerkin Karmiraghbyur, Movses and Berd to see how the educational institutions are getting ready for the new academic year. Schools across the country were closed in March of this year because of the spread of COVID-19 and according to Harutyunyan, now they are actively considering the possibility of resuming classes starting in September. Considering the recent escalation on the frontline, the Minister also wanted to see how prepared schools are in terms of safety measures. Harutyunyan said that they will collaborate with and provide assistance to the local self-government bodies to ensure that schools in all of the regional communities have shelters in place before classes resume. Harutyunyan reminded that the Azerbaijani side has also targeted educational institutions and kindergartens and school buildings were damaged in a number of communities. The Ministry has sent its concerns regarding the targeting of educational institutions to a number of international organizations, including the President of UNESCO and foreign diplomatic missions accredited in Armenia.
Hayk Chobanyan, the regional governor of Tavush, said that the monitoring activities in the border communities continued today and noted that having shelters in educational institutions in schools is among their priorities. The governor mentioned that today, agricultural activities, which were temporarily suspended because of the shelling, resumed and villagers got back to their normal life. He went on to say that construction and renovation of houses that were affected by the escalation of the tensions on the border, have also started.
The governor urged all those residents of border communities who have social or financial difficulties to contact the regional administration with the hotlines available on their official website. To all those citizens of Armenia who want to help the border communities, Chobanyan asked them to refrain from writing “heart-rending” statuses on their social media accounts about the situation in Tavush. He stressed that the Government has sufficient resources to assist all the impacted communities. Instead, the governor encouraged all these people to consider donating to the fundraising efforts that were identified by the regional administration.
Pope Francis on Tensions in the South Caucasus
After leading the Angelus on prayer July 19, Pope Francis said: “I am following with concern the recovery in recent days of armed tensions in the Caucasus region, between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In particular, while I assure you of my prayers for the families of those who lost their lives during the clashes, I hope that, with the commitment of the international community and through dialogue and the goodwill of the parties, a lasting peaceful solution can be reached, which has at heart the good of those beloved populations,” added the Pope.
Speaking about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, he said that his thoughts are especially with those whose suffering is “aggravated by situations of conflict.” Pointing to the recent UN Security Council resolution, the Pope renewed his call “for a global and immediate ceasefire, which allows the peace and security indispensable to providing the necessary humanitarian assistance.
Prime Minister Pashinyan Reiterates Need for Ceasefire Monitoring Mechanism
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan visited the Ministry of Defense headquarters, where he met with the leadership of the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces, headed by Defense Minister David Tonoyan and Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Onik Gasparyan. Minister of Foreign Affairs Zohrab Mnatsakanyan also attended the meeting.
In his speech, Prime Minister Pashinyan referred to the recent escalation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border:
“The purpose of today’s meeting is to discuss the current situation on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. First of all it should be stated that the military-political situation in the region has become aggravated due to Azerbaijan’s aggression against the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia.
“Late on July 12, Azerbaijan’s armed forces launched an attack and attempted to take control of the Anvakh (“Fearless”) border post of Armenia’s Armed Forces. It is important to note that this post is located within the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia.
“Azerbaijan’s armed forces also targeted the villages of Movses, Aygepar, Chinari, and Nerkin Karmiraghbyur in the Tavush region of Armenia with artillery fire and drones, causing significant damage to civilian infrastructure and residential houses.
“We also have evidence and factual data which indicates that Azerbaijan’s armed forces have deployed artillery and armored vehicles in the courtyards and between residential houses in the village of Aghdam, which faces Armenia’s Chinari village. It is from these positions that they targeted our villages, in order to make it appear that Armenia retaliated against Azerbaijani civilian targets.
“It is important to register the meaning and context of the events that are taking place in the region, because Azerbaijan’s offensive must have an explanation. It is therefore important to seek an answer to the following question: What does the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan want to do? And why?
“Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev’s long-standing warlike rhetoric has intensified in recent months. He threatens to resolve the Karabakh conflict by force and openly states his intention to abort the OSCE Minsk Group’s mediation efforts.
“Against this background, he has developed a thesis of the strength and invincibility of the Azerbaijani army in order to justify the billions of dollars spent over the past decade and a half under the pretext of military development.
“The military-political leadership of Azerbaijan has repeatedly stated that it awaits an order from Ilham Aliyev to resolve the Karabakh conflict by military means. This constant rhetoric had to be expressed in some form.
“Naturally, against the backdrop of these aggressive statements made by the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan, our increased vigilance was focused towards Artsakh and Artsakh’s Defense Army.
“Azerbaijan therefore decided to strike in a direction we would have least expected, with the goal of actualizing the myth of the Azerbaijani army’s invincibility through an unexpected blow, which was meant to break the moral and psychological position of the Armenian side through a swift military success and to ultimately then attack the Republic of Artsakh.
“The Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia, however, showed an exceptionally high level of combat readiness. They not only reestablished the invincibility of Armenia’s borders, but also shattered the myth built up by the incumbent President of Azerbaijan for a decade and a half about the combat effectiveness of the Azerbaijani army.
“At the same time, with this recent aggression, Azerbaijan caused significant damage to those countries with which it is cooperating in the military-technical sphere, since our Armed Forces destroyed weaponry that was deemed to be invincible all over the world.
And perhaps most shocking is the complete lack of regard by the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan towards the lives of their own soldiers who died while tasked with an obviously unachievable goal.
“The provocation undertaken by the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan also has a much broader geopolitical context. In an attempt to cover up its own failures, Azeri propaganda has started to develop a thesis that the Armenian armed forces are preparing to disrupt and dismantle the international energy infrastructure originating in Azerbaijan. The purpose of this propaganda is to position Armenia as a global threat.
“This is of course an absurd assertion since Armenia theoretically has had the opportunity to take such an action previous to last week’s events. However we have never had such a goal, and it will never be on our political agenda to create economic, political, military or security instabilities in the region or in the world.
“Our focus is to ensure our sovereignty, our borders, the security of our country and our people, and to promote global security. It has become clear in recent days that Azerbaijan poses a threat not only to Armenia, but also to global security. An Azerbaijani official stated a few days ago that their country could launch a missile attack on the Metsamor nuclear power plant.
“Armenia is capable of ensuring its own security, including the Metsamor nuclear power plant, but this is a statement that should be unequivocally considered a crime against humanity, because such an action is a threat to commit terrorism against humanity, and it should be given the appropriate international response and investigation.
“As for what to do next, our position remains the same. We must stop this vicious cycle of empty statements about ceasefire violations - an international system of reliable ceasefire monitoring must be established.
“And next, the negotiations held in the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair format should continue, and Azerbaijan should adopt a constructive position.
“And finally, allow me to express my satisfaction with the high-level of combat readiness of the Armenian Armed Forces and to state that the direction of the Armed Forces, adopted by our government, including the development of the military-industrial complex, fully justifies itself, and that there is no doubt that we will continue in this direction.
“As I have said many times, the development of the Armed Forces is not just a priority for us, but it is the priority of priorities.
“Finally I would like to address a crucial issue in this context, which is the return to the State of illegally earned money, obtained through corruption, and the investment of that money toward the development of Armenia’s Armed Forces. This objective has not been fully realized yet ... but we will be persistent towards this goal. And specific legal mechanisms have already been established to this effect, which will come into force in the near future.”
At 8:30 a.m., Shushan Stepanyan, Ministry of Defense spokesperson said that since last night, the Armenian-Azerbaijani state border has remained relatively calm. The Azerbaijani Armed Forces, using firearms, shot indiscriminately in the direction of Armenian bases positioned near the villages of Movses, Zangakatun and Khndzorut. Stepanyan later wrote that at approximately 6:38 a.m, the air defense units of the Defense Army shot down an Azerbaijani ORBITER-3 reconnaissance drone. “The frontier units of the Defense Army continue to be in full control of the situation on the frontline and are confidently carrying out the protection of the Republic’s air and land borders,” she said.
Live Press Briefing From Tavush [11 a.m.]
Artsrun Hovhannisyan presented the current situation on the Armenia-Azerbaijan state border. He said that over the entire length of the frontline, the situation has been calm since last night, marked only by indiscriminate shooting by Azerbaijani military using firearms. The air defense units of Artsakh’s Defense Army shot down an Azerbaijani ORBITER-3 reconnaissance drone.
The condition of wounded soldiers remains the same, some are showing positive signs of improvement, except for one soldier who continues to be in extremely critical condition.
Although the gunfire has mostly subsided, misinformation and false narratives are being pushed in cyberspace, Hovhannisyan said, such as fake news being disseminated by fake profiles creating panic. I urge our “partners” to refrain from such actions, he said. The MoD has been careful in terms of the amount of information it is releasing and added that everyone should follow only official sources.
Question: I want to ask about the information released by the Defense Army with regard to the Azerbaijani drone that was shot down. Is this an indication that the theater of military operations can potentially move to the Karabakh-Azerbaijan Line of Contact? Also, there were reports of shooting in the direction of the village of Zangakatun. Does this correspond to the reality?
Artsrun Hovhannisyan: The shooting down of the drone isn’t necessarily a condition that operations will be moved to Artsakh. Regardless of what is happening on the state border, drones are periodically shot down in Artsakh. But at the same time, we cannot discount that situation either. I don’t have information that the village of Zangakatun has come under direct fire. There was firing in the direction of the village where we have military posts, but not directly targeting the village.
Question: What is Armenian intelligence revealing? Is there a mobilization of movement of Azerbaijani forces or artillery on the border? If yes, then what does that indicate?
Artsrun Hovhanissyan: I would rather not describe the work of our intelligence and the movements of the adversary, but as I have mentioned before, we are able to observe the adversary’s movements with the necessary depth and volume. Has the adversary mobilized enough forces to attempt a large-scale military action? Yes, they are maintaining mobilized forces and we are aware of it. If they take action, there will be a fitting response.