Armenia imposes martial law: fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh is coming to a head

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh region for decades. Now the conflict is escalating. Helicopters are shot down, there are bombing raids with dead civilians. Armenia imposes martial law.

After the fighting in the troubled region of Nagorno-Karabakh escalated, the South Caucasus Republic of Armenia has now imposed martial law. The Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced on Sunday in Yerevan. The pro-Armenian rebels had previously announced the general mobilization. The government army and pro-Armenian rebels are currently engaged in fierce fighting in the area. The rebels reported that the Azerbaijani army suffered “heavy losses”. The Armenian Defense Ministry, which supports the rebels, reported the shooting down of two Azerbaijani military helicopters and three drones.

The rebels said that the Azerbaijani army had bombed the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is inhabited by the majority of Armenians. Targets in the regional capital Stepanakert were also attacked. Civilians were also killed in the fighting, according to both sides.

Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said the army had launched a “counter-offensive” “to stop Armenia’s military activities and protect the security of the people.” The Ministry spoke of a shot down helicopter. “Let us stand firmly by our state and our army and we will win. Long live the glorious Armenian army,” wrote Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Facebook.

On the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia there had recently been renewed tension with fighting. In the past few weeks the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan had flared up again. Both sides accused each other of attacking villages in the border area. The last time there was fierce fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh was in April 2016. More than a hundred people died. In 2010, the so far last major initiative for peace between Yerevan and Baku failed.

Conflict has been smoldering for 30 years

The two Caucasus states Armenia and Azerbaijan have been in a conflict over control of the region for almost 30 years. Nagorno-Karabakh, which is predominantly inhabited by Armenians, was added to Azerbaijan during the Soviet era. Pro-Armenian rebels took control of the area after fighting with around 30,000 dead in the early 1990s.

In 1991 Nagorno-Karabakh proclaimed its independence. Internationally, however, the area is still not recognized as an independent state. Azerbaijan wants to bring the region back completely under its control, if necessary by force. The conflict is also one between two ex-Soviet republics: Russia is on the side of Armenia, Turkey on the side of Azerbaijan. In August, both powers then held military maneuvers in the region. As recently as the summer, the federal states had emphasized that the escalation that experts had long feared should not occur in the region. The conflict should be resolved by peaceful means, it said on the part of the countries.


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