Updates From Artsakh: A Waiting Game

artsakh update october 9


Armenia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov met with their Russian counterpart Sergey Lavror in Moscow today following a call by Russian President Vladimir Putin for a cessation of hostilities on humanitarian grounds. The call was meant to give the sides a chance to exchange bodies of the dead and POWs. The meeting began at 4 p.m. Yerevan time, however, as we publish this latest update, there is still no news from that meeting. Before the meeting was scheduled to start, Azerbaijani forces began shelling the capital Stepanakert yet again.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev addressed his nation and said that while he is willing to return to the negotiating table, he is not willing to make concessions: “No country in the world can influence our determination. Whoever else you beg, whoever else you kneel before, whoever else you implore – no-one can influence us! We are on the right path, we are winning, we are getting the upper hand and we will take back our lands! We will restore our territorial integrity!” He went on to say that Armenia’s leadership “now understands that they can only act according to our demands and our conditions. Go to your country, go away from our territories.”  Although Hikmet Hajiyev, the Azerbaijani president’s assistant and foreign policy chief denied that Azerbaijani forces shelled the Holy Savior Ghazanchetsots Church in Shushi, during his speech, Aliyev said: “We took inauguration in Shusha [Shushi] as an insult. We didn't bomb there then, despite many asked me to do it. Now he [Arayik Harutyunyan] should look at that building where he took the oath.”

Here is a chronology of official updates.

Kremlin Calls for Cessation of Hostilities for Humanitarian Reasons

12:55 a.m.: The Kremlin reports that after a series of telephone conversations with President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan, Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, for humanitarian reasons, calls for a cessation of hostilities in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone to exchange bodies of the dead and prisoners.

The Kremlin communique also says the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia are invited to Moscow on October 9 for consultations on these issues with the mediation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia.


Armenia’s Ombudsman on Shelling of Ghazanchetsots Cathedral

3 a.m.: In the early morning hours of October 9, Armenia’s Ombudsman Arman Tatoyan issued a special statement on the shelling of Shushi’s Cathedral by Azerbaijani military forces: 

1. Today, Azerbaijani military forces targeted and bombarded one of the historical symbols of Armenian architecture, the Holy Savior Ghazanchetsots Church of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh), located in Shushi city center.

Azerbaijani military forces launched the second missile attack shortly after the first one.  The missile attacks caused significant destruction to the Cathedral.

2. At the moment of the first missile attack there were only children, women, and elderly in the basement of the Cathedral. And since there was only a very short break between those two air strikes, a number of children, women, and elderly were still in the basement of the Cathedral.

3. The results of the urgent investigation by the Human Rights Defender provide evidence to conclude that the targeted airstrikes on Shushi Holy Saviour Ghazanchetsots Church were made with an intent to inflict destruction on the Cathedral and death of the children, women, and elderly located in the basement, i.e. commit killing.

4. We must emphasize, that before the air strikes, there was a news report posted and disseminated on the internet, which explicitly showed that there are children, women, and elderly in the basement of the Cathedral.

Moreover, the women in the video material confirmed that the Azerbaijani military forces conducted targeted military attacks on the residential buildings in Shushi. And due to that reason, they had sought shelter from the targeted strikes in the basement of the Cathedral. Further in the video, peaceful residents noted that the Azerbaijani strikes were so extensive that there was no place for shelter in other basements, and that was the reason why they had sheltered in the basement of the Cathedral.

5. Additionally, right after the first Azerbaijani air strike on the Cathedral there was information largely disseminated, including photo and video materials, on peaceful residents being located in the basement. This information was also published by the Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Armenia, who closely follow the Azerbaijani official sources.

6. Despite this, the Azerbaijani forces hit the Cathedral for the second time shortly after the first strike.

7. The aforementioned clearly shows that Azerbaijani missiles were launched with the criminal intent to deprive the sheltered children, women, and elderly of their lives and to cause destruction of the Cathedral.

8. Furthermore, as a result of the airstrikes on Shushi Cathedral, three journalists were injured, one of them is in extremely grave condition. The doctors in Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh, are fighting for his life.

The Human Rights Defender states again, that the work of the media in the conflict zone has a legitimate purpose, it is aimed at providing the world with objective information on the military attacks. Moreover, the work of the journalists has a human rights protection objective and contributes to the prevention of conflicts. 

9. I specifically emphasize that Shushi is the second largest city of Artsakh, densely populated: it is a peaceful residential site. The Holy Saviour Ghazanchetsots Cathedral is located in the center of the city, and there is no military object nearby.

10. The aforementioned explicitly witnesses the Azerbaijani criminal intent to destroy the Armenian historical exceptional cultural heritage and kill peaceful residents and international journalists performing their professional duties.

Tomorrow, the Human Rights Defender will send the statement on this substantiated conclusion, along with the evidence and the necessary analysis to all international organizations and embassies in appropriate formats and procedure.

11. The accounts of this statement are based on the Human Rights Defender’s own urgent fact finding work, facts registered and evidence collected by the Artsakh Human Rights Defender, including the interviews with the residents of Shushi. Journalistic video materials and other evidence along with factual data have also been accepted as a basis.

12. I call firmly upon the international community once again to draw their attention on these extremely dangerous incidents and continuous humanitarian disaster with an aim to undertake actual measures to immediately stop those. 


Situation Overnight Tense, But Stable

9:40 a.m.: According to Defense Ministry Spokesperson Shushan Stepanyan: The situation on the Artsakh-Azerbaijan Line of Contact overnight was tense but stable. The tactical situation has remained unchanged. On different sections along the contact line skirmishes, artillery fire continued taking place; the adversary also fired rockets and artillery in the direction of peaceful settlements.

Units of the Defense Army are in full control of the situation and stand ready for any development.

10:40 a.m.: Artsakh’s Ombudsman Artak Beglaryan tweeted that Azerbaijani forces just struck Stepanakert’s civilian structures several times. He said: “The authorities of that country are chronic terrorists and criminals, while the international community is chronically blind.” No data on casualties yet. 

11:28 a.m.:  The Defense Army released the names of an additional 26 servicemen killed in action.

Gevorgyan, Roman [Nairii], b. 2000

Mesropyan, Monte [Hoviki], b. 2001

Muradyan, Suren [Sargsi], b. 2000

Khachatryan, Gegham [Kareni], b. 2001

Yeghoyan, Artyom [Arshaki], b. 1997

Yurdinyan, Levon [Hayki], b. 2001

Movsisyan, Senik [Arayi], b. 2001

Badalyan, Samvel [Vahagni], b. 2000

Aleksandryan, Emil [Armeni], b. 2000

Azizyan, Khachatur [Gagiki], b. 2000

Davtyan, Narek [Daviti], 2001

Danielyan, Artur [Vardaniki], b. 1995

Baginyants, Albert [Sureni], b. 1976

Rostomyan, Hakob [Arayi], b. 1989

Karapetyan, Hovhannes [Garniki], b. 1996

Israelyan, Marat [Nikolayi], b. 1978

Potoyan, Roman [Armeni], b. 2001

Toroyan, Grigor [Roberti], b. 2001

Manvelyan, Hunan [Sargsi], b. 2000

Ayvazyan, Pap [Gariki], b. 2001

Hovhannisyan, Narek [Kamsari], b. 2000

Volunteer Mkrtchyan, Tigran [Fahradi], b. 1995

Ghazaryan, Artur [Karapeti], b. 1984

Zakaryan, Tigran [Shaheni], b. 2000

Konyan, Norayr [Grigori], b. 2000

Harutyunyan, Karapet [Mkrtchi], b. 2001 



Ombudsman on Hate Speech Against Ethnic Armenians

10:45 a.m.: Armenia’s Ombudsman Arman Tatoyan issued a statement regarding hate speech against ethnic Armenians

Azerbaijani military air and artillery strikes and shelling of the civilian population of Artsakh and Armenia as of September 27 continue in parallel with an immense volume of hate speech against ethnic Armenians.    

1. Calls for hatred and violence, including killings are being disseminated through mass media, especially by social media platforms, by Turkish and Azerbaijani sources. 

There is a large number of aggressive web pages and groups, which spread video materials and texts inciting hatred and violence, containing materials illustrating cruel treatment of living or deceased people, killings, and destruction.  There is also a significant number of fake profiles with false Armenian names and last names, which send threats and intimidating messages to actual Armenian users.

2. All aforementioned materials are being disseminated through Facebook, Twitter, and other  social networks.

3. This has all been confirmed by the evidence collected within the framework of the independent monitoring of the Human Rights Defender of Armenia. This includes mainly objective evidence, such as photographs, screenshots of the social network pages, and video materials.

4. I hereby emphasize that hatred against ethnic Armenians has deep roots and enjoys state support.  From the first day of the military attacks the dissemination of hatred and calls for cruel treatment and killings have become more coordinated – culminating into excessively dangerous volumes.

5. I  call firmly upon the international community to draw attention over this extremely dangerous circumstance. There is a need to take urgent and effective measures, which will stop and prevent this appalling phenomenon. It is being accompanied with violation of international requirements and is a real threat to information security and peace in the whole region.   

6. I call upon parents to be exceptionally cautious with regards to the use of social networks, and in case of minors, exclude their access to social networks.

I call upon children to stay away from accessing and following unknown pages,  and in any circumstance stay away from opening and reading messages from unknown social network pages.  

7. All evidence on dangerous incidents collected via screenshots will be sent to international partners and embassies in appropriate formats.

8. The Human Rights Defender continues to work in a 24 hour emergency working regime.

9. Close cooperation with the Human Rights Defender of Artsakh is ensured.


Eurasian Intergovernmental Council Holds Its Regular Meeting in Yerevan

12:00 p.m.: The meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. Chair of the Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission (EAEC) Mikhail Myasnikovich, Russian Federation Premier Mikhail Mishustin, Belarus Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko, and Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Askar Mamin arrived in Yerevan to attend the meeting. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Alikbek Jekshan Kulov participated on behalf of the Kyrgyz Republic.

Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan greeted the guests at the Demirchyan Sports and Concert Complex. After a  ceremonial video session, a narrow-format meeting of the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council was held. Prime Minister Pashinyan addressed the guests with opening remarks. 

“Dear Heads of Government,

 “I welcome all of you to this regular meeting of the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council, which is being held in Armenia. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic was unable to come to Armenia to participate in today’s meeting. We have to hold the meeting in his absence. I wish the friendly people of Kyrgyzstan peace and harmony, and a speedy settlement of the political situation in the country.

“Today’s sitting is taking place in difficult times for Armenia. For two weeks now, fighting has been raging all the way along the Line of Contact in Nagorno-Karabakh with the use of all types of modern weaponry. Towns and villages, civilian facilities and infrastructure have been under heavy artillery shelling in Nagorno-Karabakh and in the Republic of Armenia.

We have suffered numerous casualties and injuries, including among the civilian population. However, I assure you that despite all these difficulties, our people are consolidated as never before with the firm resolve to stand up to the last in defending our freedom and independence.

“I would like to thank the members of all delegations for coming to Armenia at this difficult time. Rest assured that it is especially valuable for us. I wish us all fruitful work and constructive debates for the sake of integration, to the benefit of our Union. Thank you.”

“An enlarged meeting is to be held as part of the Yerevan meeting of the EAEU Intergovernmental Council.”


Parliament Adopts Amendments on Labor Code Regarding Types of Military Service 

12:30 p.m.: Today, during a special session, the National Assembly of Armenia adopted a draft law in the second reading on making amendments to the RA Labor Code. The draft was proposed by the "My Step" faction and aims to regulate relations related to all types of military service. 

According to the bill, when someone volunteers, participates in military exercises, enlists in the armed forces, their job will be protected; they will be temporarily relieved of their duties and issues related to remuneration will be settled with the consent of the employee and the employer. Until now, regulations existed only related to compulsory military service and not mobilization, participation in military exercises, volunteering and other cases. 

The second draft law, aims to make amendments in the administrative and legal proceedings code and Criminal Procedure Code. According to the bill, responsibility measures will be added in case of administrative violations of restrictions and rules during martial law. While presenting the draft law, Justice Minister Rustam Badasyan noted that those measures are necessary to strengthen the legal side of martial law. Some of the proposed amendments restrict the broadcast and dissemination of programs and news stories that bring into question the defense capacity and capability of Armenia and Artsakh. Moreover, publications criticizing and denying the actions and statements of state and local self-government bodies and officials related to the legal regime of martial law and state security are also prohibited.

Parliament voted in favor of the bill during the second reading.


Foreign Ministry Confirms FM Mnatsakanyan Leaving for Moscow

12:30 p.m.: Anna Naghdalyan, the Spokesperson of Armenia’s Foreign Ministry has announced that Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan is leaving for Moscow, where consultations of the foreign ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia are scheduled to take place. Naghdalyan said that the agenda will focus exclusively on cessation of hostilities, humanitarian issues of exchanging bodies and prisoners of war.

2 p.m.: According to the Armenian Unified Infocenter, fighting continues in the Artsakh-Azerbaijani conflict zone, with the most intense battles taking place along the southern section of the front. Units of the Defense Army are successfully holding back the Azerbaijani offensive, inflicting significant human and material losses.

2:10 p.m.: Artak Beglaryan, Artaskh’s Ombudsman tweeted that the operation of the critically wounded Russian journalist Yuri Kotyonok was successful; he has been sent to Yerevan. Note: Azerbaijan yesterday struck Shushi cathedral & wounded 3 Russian journalists.

2:30 p.m.: Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov announced that the meeting of Armenian, Russian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers is scheduled to commence at 3 p.m Moscow time (4 p.m. Yerevan). 

Ahead of Ceasefire Talks, Azerbaijani Forces Shell Stepanakert

2:45 p.m.: Artak Beglaryan, Artsakh’s Ombudsman tweeted that the Azerbaijani army again shelled Stepanakert with a heavy missile. He noted that while some politicians were talking about humanitarian ceasefire between Azerbaijan & Artsakh, the Azerbajani army just again struck Stepanakert with a heavy missile.

5:30 p.m.: As the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan were about to meet with their Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow to discuss a potential ceasefire, Artsrun Hovhannisyan of the Ministry of Defense reports that Azerbaijani forces launched a fresh missile attack on Stepanakert.


Ministry of Defense Live Press Briefing on Military Situation

9 p.m.: Artsrun Hovhannisyan of the Ministry of Defense presented the military situation.

Artsrun Hovhannisyan of Armenia’s Defense Ministry said that military operations resumed today in the morning in the north as well as in the south of the Line of Contact. Military operations in the southern direction were more intense compared to yesterday. The Defense Army continues resisting the offensive of the adversary and pushing them back to their positions. The Azerbaijani side again suffered significant losses. At the moment, the battles continue. Today, official Baku announced that they took control of Jebrayil, Hadrut and the surrounding villages. Hovhannisyan noted that this is complete nonsense, because at the time the announcement was made, he was in Hadrut and military operations did not take place in that direction. The capital Stepanakert continued being shelled during the afternoon and the city was struck several dozen times. Hovhannisyan also said that today he went to see the Ghazanchetsots church [it was shelled twice yesterday] and it is obvious that the adversary intentionally targeted the church and with exact precision shelled it twice in the same place. “This is no way could have been a random strike. He noted that as a rule battles continue during the night but they start intensifying in the morning. 

Taking into consideration the fact that there is considerable external involvement in the Azerbaijani army, we have heard on several occasions Aliyev announce things that are simply not true. This leads us to suspect that the military strategic management system in Azerbaijan is crippled, this is also cause for concern. There are similar examples in the history of warfare, when the leadership is not made aware of inconvenient truths, when only successes are reported and not the failures. This disrupts the management system and it is possible that Aliyev has fallen into that trap.    

Answering a question about the intensity of battles and whether it has decreased since the beginning of the war, Hovhannisyan said that it is very difficult to evaluate since the intensity of the military operations varies throughout the day, depending on a number of factors, including the time of day, weather conditions, military manoeuvres, etc. If we remember the intensity of the battles during the first few days, then it is possible to say that the Defense Army has been able to break the intensity of the Azerbaijani offensive. And the successes that the Azerbaijani side has registered are insignificant compared to the momentum of the war and the expectations of the adversary. In some of the directions, Azerbaijani forces used the tank brigade of the fourth army corps, which is fully equipped with T-90 third generation battle tanks. 

Most of the UAVs that were shot down yesterday in Vardenis [Armenia] were reconnaissance UAVs. The Ministry of Defense will make an official statement about the details but there are also double-purpose UAVs that can both gather intelligence and release ammunition and it is sometimes difficult to differentiate if it is a single purpose or a double purpose UAV. 

Just today I saw five anti-tank servicewomen who were carrying out their duties with utmost professionalism. They are in charge of one of the most sophisticated anti-tank equipment in the armed forces and they excel in what they do. We have female snipers and women in the artillery division. I have not met her but have heard a lot about our female commander and I look forward to meeting her. I met a woman the day before yesterday who has left her six month old infant in the care of her mother and has come to fulfill her duties as a career soldier.

Ocotber 8

Limitations to Freedom of Speech Under Martial Law

On October 8, Armenia’s government adopted the following decision:

Guided by Article 8 of the Legal Regime on Martial Law and Articles 33 and 34 of the Law on Normative Legal Acts, the Government made a decision according to which:

  • it is prohibited to criticize, deny or question actions of the state and local self-government bodies aimed at protecting the state security and the enforcement of the legal regime of martial law;

  • it is prohibited to question or spread propaganda against the defense capacity and security of the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh;

  • the Police of the Republic of Armenia is authorized to take the necessary measures to ensure that above described reports and publications are taken down as well as to temporarily confiscate printing equipment, radio broadcasters, amplifiers and duplicators.

The decision will enter into force as soon as it is publicized.

PM Pashinyan: Recognize the Independence of Nagorno Karabakh

In an interview to TV5Monde, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said: “An adequate response in this situation would be for European countries, the international community to find strength in themselves, take a decisive step and recognize the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh.”


Armenia’s Foreign Ministry on Targeting Journalists

The following is a statement issued by the Spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry of Armenia on targeting of journalists by the armed forces of Azerbaijan:

On October 8, the armed forces of Azerbaijan once again shelled the Holy Savior Ghazanchetsots Cathedral located in the center of Shushi. Journalists who were there on the ground covering the consequences of the first bombardment of the Cathedral earlier in the day - Yuri Kotyenok, Levon Arzanov, as well as their guide Hrant Baladyan - were all injured.

The targeting of journalists while performing their professional duty is a deliberate act aimed at hindering the recording of the war crimes committed by the Azerbaijani army and their presentation to the international community.

We wish a speedy recovery to the wounded journalists and strongly condemn this war crime conducted by Azerbaijan.

At the same time we draw the attention of the whole international community, human rights organizations and those advocating for freedom of speech to this gross violation of the right to access to information.


Alfortville, France Votes in Favor of the Recognition of Artsakh by France

According to the Artsakh Infocenter, the Deputy Mayor of the city of Alfortville, France, Garo Khachikyan announced that the city council unanimously voted in favor of the recognition of the Artsakh Republic by France. The council also decided to provide financial aid to the people of Artsakh. 

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