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Azerbaijan launches new attack on Armenians in disputed territory

Azerbaijan has launched an “anti-terrorist operation” targeting Armenian military positions in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Officials in the region report heavy artillery shelling of its capital.

Four soldiers and two civilians were killed as a result of a mine explosion in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. A few hours afterwards, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence announced the start of an operation.

The Ministry of Defence did not immediately comment but said that “positions on the front line and in-depth, long-term firing points of the formations of Armenia’s armed forces, as well as combat assets and military facilities, are incapacitated using high-precision weapons”. The Azerbaijani statement said:

“Only legitimate military targets are being incapacitated.”

However, ethnic Armenian officials in Nagorno-Karabakh said the region’s capital, Stepanakert, and other settlements were “under intense shelling”.

A statement from Azerbaijan’s interior ministry, state security service and prosecutor-general said two employees of the highways department died before dawn when their vehicle was blown up by a mine and that a truckload of soldiers responding to the incident hit another mine, killing four.

Nagorno-Karabakh and parts of the surrounding territories have been under ethnic Armenian control since the end of the separatist war in 1994, but Azerbaijan regained these territories and parts of Nagorno-Karabakh in a six-week war in 2020. That war ended with an armistice which placed a Russian peacekeeper contingent in Nagorno-Karabakh.

However, Azerbaijan claims that Armenia has been smuggling weapons since then. As a result of these statements, the road linking Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia was blocked, causing an acute shortage of food and medicine in the region.

On Monday, Red Cross shipments of flour and medical supplies arrived in Nagorno-Karabakh, but local authorities said road links to the region were not fully open.But Azerbaijan alleges that Armenia has smuggled in weapons since then.

The hostilities come amid high tensions between Armenia and its longtime ally Russia. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Tuesday denied claims that Russia had been informed in advance of Azerbaijan’s intention to launch the operation, adding that the peacekeepers were notified only “a few minutes” before it began.

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