Late last night, video images surfaced of what appeared to be phosphorus munitions being used over Artsakh, setting fires to forests close to civilian settlements. This took place hours after the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan took part in mediated talks in Geneva with the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs.
Early this morning, the central market of the capital Stepanakert was bombed, causing significant damage. The towns of Shushi and Martuni were also shelled, despite the agreement reached in Geneva to stop targeting civilians.
Armenia’s Prime Minister sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin requesting assistance in accordance with a 1997 bilateral “Agreement on Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance.” In his letter, Pashinyan said military operations are not only approaching the borders of Armenia, but encroachments have already taken place on the territory of the Republic of Armenia. The Prime Minister asked the Russian President to immediately start consultations to determine the type and size of assistance that the Russian Federation can provide to the Republic of Armenia to safeguard its security.
Here is a chronology of official updates.
Use of Phosphorus Munitions
12:35 a.m.: Arman Tatoyan, posted a video proving the use of banned munition by the Azerbaijani side. His announcement below:
As confirmed by evidence, Azerbaijan is using phosphorus munitions over Nagorno-Karabakh, setting fires to the forests which are next to civilian communities.
The results of Armenia’s Human Rights Defender’s urgent investigation and the fact-finding activities of the Artsakh Human Rights Ombudsman confirmed not only this fact, but also the fact that many civilians are hiding in these forests from Azerbaijani military attacks during both daytime and at night.
These munitions clearly cause mass destruction of the environment; now they are also used against civilians by Azerbaijani military forces and in this context are forbidden under international law.
These phosphorus munitions are weapons which use one of the common allotropes of the chemical element phosphorus. White phosphorus is used in smoke, illumination and incendiary munitions, and is commonly the burning element of tracer ammunition.
Press Statement by Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group
2 a.m.: Following talks between the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Geneva, the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (Igor Popov of the Russian Federation, Stephane Visconti of France, and Andrew Schofer of the United States of America) released the following statement today:
The Co-Chairs met separately and jointly with Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov in Geneva on October 30. The Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson in Office (PRCiO) Andrzej Kasprzyk also participated in the meetings. They also held consultations with UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and ICRC President Peter Maurer.
The Co-Chairs once again called on the sides to implement, in full, their commitments, including the immediate establishment of a humanitarian ceasefire, in accordance with the October 10 Moscow Joint Statement, which the sides reaffirmed with Paris on October 17 and in Washington on October 25.
Without prejudice to the implementation of the ceasefire or other commitments, the sides agreed to take a number of steps on an urgent basis, including:
The sides will not deliberately target civilian populations or non-military objects in accordance with international humanitarian law;
The sides will actively engage in the implementation of the recovery and exchange of remains on the battlefield by providing the ICRC and PRCiO the necessary safety guarantees for facilitation;
The sides will deliver to the ICRC and PRCiO, within one week, a list of currently detained prisoners of war for the purposes of providing access and eventual exchange;
The sides will provide in writing comments and questions related to possible ceasefire verification mechanisms in accordance with item 2 of the October 10 joint statement.
The sides engaged in an open and substantive exchange of views aimed at clarifying their negotiating positions on core elements of a comprehensive solution in accordance with item 3 of the October 10 joint statement.
The Co-Chairs will continue working with the sides intensively to find a peaceful settlement of the conflict.
Central Market of Stepanakert Bombed, Causing Significant Damage
9:45 a.m.: According to Defense Ministry spokesperson Shushan Stepanyan, Azerbaijani forces again shelled Artsakh’s capital Stepanakert a short time after an agreement was reached at the meeting of Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers in Geneva on October 30.
Stepanyan wrote that at 7:08 a.m., sounds of explosions were heard in Stepanakert and air raid sirens went off. The target was the central market of the capital. Civilian infrastructure was damaged, causing significant losses to the population. According to preliminary data, no casualties have been reported.
Azerbaijani Forces Continue to Target Peaceful Settlements
9:50 a.m.: According to Artsakh’s Defense Army, reconnaissance missions and firing continued in the areas where Azerbaijani units were deployed overnight. One Azerbaijani vehicle loaded with ammunition was destroyed. The alignment of forces in all directions of the front line remained unchanged. The units of the Defense Army conducted successful defensive battles in the northeastern, southern and southwestern directions. Defense Army troops destroyed one Azerbaijani tank, one infantry fighting vehicle and five UAVs.
This morning, hostilities resumed in these directions. The adversary continued to target peaceful settlements and civilian infrastructure.
Azerbaijani forces also used weapons containing chemical elements (white phosphorus) prohibited by international conventions.
Artsakh Defense Army units have the operative-tactical situation under control.
Armenia’s Prime Minister Officially Requests Russian Assistance
10 a.m.: On October 31, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin detailing the situation created by the Azerbaijani-Turkish military aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh and the resulting challenges.
The letter stressed the fact that armed foreign terrorists have been transferred from the Middle East and are now involved in hostilities against Nagorno-Karabakh.
Taking into account that military operations are not only approaching the borders of the Republic of Armenia, but that encroachments have already taken place on the territory of the Republic of Armenia, the Prime Minister requested that the Russian President immediately start consultations to determine the type and size of assistance that the Russian Federation can provide to the Republic of Armenia to safeguard its security based on allied relations between Armenia and Russia and Article 2 of the August 27, 1997 “Agreement on Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance.”
10:48 a.m.: Defense Ministry spokesperson Shushan Stepanyan, announced that Azerbaijani forces also shelled the town of Shushi, violating the agreement on not targeting the civilian population reached in Geneva through the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs. According to Stepanyan, as a result of shelling, there are wounded among the civilian population.
Russian Foreign Ministry Responds to Official Yerevan’s Request
11:15 a.m.: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia issued a statement regarding Nikol Pashinyan’s letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin requesting to start consultations to determine the type and size of assistance that the Russian Federation can provide to the Republic of Armenia to safeguard its security based on allied relations between Armenia and Russia and Article 2 of the August 27, 1997 “Agreement on Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance.”
The statement reaffirmed the commitment of the Russian Federation to its allied obligations in relation to the Republic of Armenia, including those arising from the 1997 bilateral “Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance.” According to the statement, a number of articles of this Agreement presuppose specific actions in the event of a threat of armed attack or an act of aggression in relation to each other's territory.
The Russian MFA stated that Russia will provide Yerevan with all the necessary assistance if the clashes are transferred directly to the territory of Armenia in accordance with the agreement.
The Russian side once again called on the parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict for an immediate ceasefire, de-escalation of tension and return to substantive negotiations in order to achieve a peaceful settlement based on basic principles in line with the agreements reached by the foreign ministers of the Russian Federation, the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia in Moscow on October 10, 2020.
11:45 a.m.: According to the State Emergency Service of Artsakh, Stepanakert was shelled in the morning and civilian infrastructures were again targeted. According to the announcement, after yesterday’s agreement in Geneva, the capital of Artsakh again woke up from the sounds of Azerbaijan’s missiles.
According to the announcement, at 7:08 a.m the bombing sounds could be heard and the air raid siren immediately went off. This time, Azerbaijan’s target was Stepanakert’s market and a part of its infrastructure of public importance was destroyed, causing great material damage to the civilian population.
The next blast destroyed a house with all its property. The adjacent apartments were also partially damaged. According to preliminary data, there are no casualties.
The announcement also noted that the situation in the capital and the regions was relatively calm on the night of October 30-31.
Joint Invitation to Diplomatic Representations and International Organizations Accredited in Armenia to Visit Artsakh
12:30 p.m.: Artsakh’s Ombudsman Artak Beglaryan tweeted that he and Arman Tatoyan, the Ombudsman of Armenia, have sent a joint invitation to the diplomatic representations and international organizations accredited in Armenia to visit Artsakh and record the atrocities being committed by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces against the population of Artsakh. As a reminder, Azerbaijani forces used white phosphorus munitions in the forests of Artsakh near civilian settlements and where many civilians are thought to be hiding.
Together with @OmbudsArmenia @atatoyan we sent a joint invitation to the diplomatic representations and intl organizations accredited in #Armenia to visit #Artsakh/#Karabakh and record the atrocities of #Azerbaijan against Artsakh people. https://t.co/vkLXAy1ufB— Artak Beglaryan (@Artak_Beglaryan) October 31, 2020
Phosphorus Munitions: Gross Violations of International Humanitarian Law
1:40 p.m.: Defense Ministry spokesperson Shushan Stepanyan posted video evidence of the Azerbaijani side using phosphorus munitions and announced that usage of such munitions containing elements of chemical weapons in the Artsakh-Azerbaijani conflict zone is a gross violation of International Humanitarian Law, Norms and Principles of Customary Law, the Geneva Conventions, as well as the provisions of the relevant UN conventions and documents.
According to Stepanyan, apart from the intention to inflict damage to the Armenian forces, the Azerbaijani side also aims to cause massive forest fires and create a real environmental disaster in the area. She said that the prohibition of these actions and the concomitant rights and values lie primarily in the realm of customary law, whereas the use of such weapons, which do not distinguish between military and civilian targets causing environmental disasters and possible human losses, constitutes war crimes.
2:25 p.m.: The spokesperson of the Defense Ministry Shushan Stepanyan said that the Artsakh Defense Army presented irrefutable evidence proving the use of phosphorus munitions containing elements of chemical weapons by the Azerbaijani forces. She said that afterwards the Azerbaijani official circles have resorted to spreading ridiculous statements “to get out of the water dry.”
2:25 p.m.: According to Artsakh’s State Service of Emergency Situations, during the day, Azerbaijani forces continued shelling the civilian settlements of Artsakh.
In the morning the capital Stepanakert, and in the afternoon the cities of Martuni and Martakert, were targeted and now Shushi is being targeted by Azerbaijani rocket launchers. Information about casualties and damage is being clarified.
Civilians Continue to Pay a High Price
2:30 p.m.: Artsakh’s Human Rights Defender Artak Beglaryan told Azatutyun that, as of October 30, at least 44 civilians have been killed and another 141 wounded. He reminded that the Azerbaijani side once again violated the reached agreements and targeted Stepanakert, Shushi and a number of other civilian settlements. The posted videos and photos show that the shelling resulted in large-scale destruction. There are also wounded but the number is still being clarified.
4:30 p.m.: The Artsakh Ombudsman’s Office wrote the following on its Facebook Page:
After the meeting mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairs and the agreements reached on humanitarian issues, Azerbaijan has been targeting the civilian communities of Artsakh since the morning of October 31.
In the morning, the residential areas and the central market of the capital Stepanakert were struck, where no military object is located. The city was severely damaged by missile strikes.
The village of Herher in the Martuni region was also shelled, as a result of which a 59-year-old Apres Adamyan, was killed in his house.
The towns of Martuni, Martakert and Shushi were also struck by artillery and heavy missiles. The data on civilian victims and material damage is being clarified.
4:30 p.m.: Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan on Azerbaijan using phosphorus munitions in Artsakh:
7 p.m.: Canada’s Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne spoke with FM Mnatsakanyan, calling for verification mechanisms and for external parties to stay out of the conflict in Artsakh.
Exchanged w/ @ZMnatsakanyan. The need for a ceasefire in #NagornoKarabakh is urgent to stop civilian casualties and suffering. The creation of verification mechanisms by @OSCE Minsk Co-Chairs is a priority.— François-Philippe Champagne (FPC) 🇨🇦 (@FP_Champagne) October 31, 2020
We continue to call on external parties to stay out of the conflict.
This time #Azerbaijan used phosphorus munitions in #Artsakh over forests close to residential areas with many civilians.— Zohrab Mnatsakanyan (@ZMnatsakanyan) October 31, 2020
What Azerbaijan is doing: total disrespect of its commitments, continued aggression, devastation of civilian population & use of banned weapons. pic.twitter.com/YyEjZ0ldUY
#Azerbaijan has no credibility, no dignity to respect its word. Yesterday they committed not to target civilians. Today they shell #Stepanakert again. Sickening. Intl CMTY need to get it- #NagornoKarabakh is not a conflict, its ppl whom #Baku wants to destroy#RecognizeToProtect pic.twitter.com/Pn6Cy4uZkP— Zohrab Mnatsakanyan (@ZMnatsakanyan) October 31, 2020
8:15 p.m.: The spokesperson of the Defense Ministry Shushan Stepanyan said that phosphorus itself is a toxic substance. It can damage the bones and bone marrow as well as result in tissue death. A person who is in the zone where such a bomb was destroyed can receive fatal injuries, including deep burns. Even healthcare workers treating a person who has sustained phosphorus burns need to be trained; otherwise they may end up sustaining burns while treating the wound.
9:15 p.m.: Artsrun Hovhannisyan tweeted the following as a reminder that the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan had agreed not to target civilian settlements or non-military objects. “Dear World, in the city of Martuni there are peaceful civilians as well. Today, Martuni was bombed several times.”
9:45 p.m. : The spokesperson of the Defense Ministry Shushan Stepanyan announced that the Air Defense Units of the Artsakh Defense Army shot down an Azerbaijani combat UAV in Stepanakert.
Defense Ministry Live Press Briefing
10 p.m.: During a live press briefing, Artsrun Hovhannisyan of the Defense Ministry said that, from early morning, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces with their terrorist mercenaries continued their offensive along the entire length of the front line. Although military operations in general were not very intense, in certain directions, tense local battles took place. In the central direction, the Azerbaijani side attacked a few military positions using large infantry, military equipment and artillery. At the same time, Azerbaijani forces shelled the city of Martuni and managed to register some advancements and change some of the positions. Hovhannisyan said that Armenian forces managed to regain control of certain positions during local battles in the southern and southeastern directions. The battles continue. While military operations are not very tense, very advanced military equipment and weapons are being used.
While answering reporters' questions, Hovhannisyan said that no matter what is being negotiated or agreed on, unless there are full verification mechanisms, questions about which are being processed in short time periods by our side, a complete ceasefire is impossible. He went on to say that it’s essential to have a mechanism which will positively identify which side violates a ceasefire, as it will show that the war and the aggression was started by Azerbaijan.
Hovhannisyan also said that the usage and type of phosphorus munitions is being investigated and there will be a report after it’s completed. “I want to once again note that today Azerbaijan is using artillery missile systems to shell the civilian population in Stepanakert and Martuni… I want to highlight that Azerbaijan shells peaceful civilians with high-precision weapons.”
11:35 p.m.: Artsakh’s Ombudsman provides latest update on civilian losses since the beginning of the war.
A Captured Mercenary Arrested on Suspicion of Committing Acts of International Terrorism
The Prosecutor General’s Office issued a statement reminding that, since September 27, law enforcement bodies of Armenia and Artsakh launched a number of criminal cases. The statement says that the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan violated the requirements of a number of international agreements and waged an aggressive war against Artsakh and Armenia, used methods prohibited during wars and systematically and purposefully inflicted human and property losses.
Also, the Azerbaijani leadership disregarded the numerous international conventions and treaties on combating terrorism, failed to fulfill its obligations under several ceasefire agreements and continued using mercenaries who are members of terrorist groups. Those mercenaries carried out acts of international terrorism and committed acts aimed at killing people, destroying buildings, roads, communication lines, as well as targeted a number of settlements of Armenia and Artsakh using missile artillery systems, aircrafts and drones.
Our latest update on the #Artsakh/#Karabakh civilian human & material losses made by #Azerbaijan in 160 communities:— Artak Beglaryan (@Artak_Beglaryan) October 31, 2020
Az continues targeting civilian objects & ppl.#DontBeBlind pic.twitter.com/5IJSaamFNN
During the military operations on October 29, the servicemen of the Artsakh Defense Army detected a mercenary from the Abu Hamshein group, a resident of the Syrian city of Hamma named Mhrab Muhammad Al Shkhair, who was transferred to Azerbaijan through Turkey on October 19 and was actively involved in the acts described.
Shkhair was arrested as part of the criminal case launched for unleashing an aggressive war against Artsakh and using mercenaries recruited by the military-political leadership of the Republic of Azerbaijan, committing an act of aggression and serious violations of international humanitarian law during an armed conflict and for committing acts of international terrorism. He was arrested on suspicion of committing international terrorism, participating in an armed conflict, murder and assaulting the civilian population.
UK to Provide £1 Million Humanitarian Aid to People Affected by the War in Artsakh
The UK government announced that it will provide £1 million in relief to those affected by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. According to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, thousands of people who have been affected by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will receive urgent medical supplies, food and safer shelters from a new UK aid package.
The aid will include medical supplies, including dressing kits and bandages, and will be provided for civilians caught up in the crisis, in response to an appeal by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). According to the announcement,
people injured in the fighting, including children caught in the crossfire, will receive life-saving treatment at health facilities or from emergency responders supported by the ICRC. The support will also provide blankets, food parcels and basic hygiene items to vulnerable communities near the fighting.
UK support will also assist to improve the quality of often overcrowded shelters by installing or improving water tanks and toilets. The aid will ensure the shelters are suitably equipped to keep warm as the region’s bitter winter approaches.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that the UK “continues to urge both sides to engage with the OSCE Minsk Group and seek a peaceful, negotiated, political solution which the people of the region so desperately need.”
Martin Schuepp, the ICRC Regional Director for Eurasia added that the organization is grateful for the assistance provided by the UK since the “high-quality funding the ICRC receives from its donors, including the UK, enables the ICRC to deliver neutral, impartial and independent action to those affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence.”
European Commission Provides Additional €400,000 in Emergency Aid For Civilians Affected by the Hostilities
According to the announcement by the European Commission, the EU has allocated an additional €400,000 in humanitarian aid to cover the most urgent needs of civilians affected by the conflict in and around Nagorno Karabakh.
With this emergency support to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Red Cross of Armenia and Red Crescent of Azerbaijan will deliver food packages, blankets, hygiene items and other urgently needed help to civilians who were forced to flee due to the hostilities.
Janez Lenarčič, the commissioner for Crisis Management said that “the EU calls for an immediate end to the hostilities that have already claimed civilian lives. We are extremely concerned about the deterioration of the humanitarian situation, given the upcoming winter and the aggravating coronavirus pandemic.”
This funding brings EU emergency humanitarian aid to €900,000 since the hostilities started. EU humanitarian aid is provided solely based on needs, without discrimination, and in line with the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.