After almost two weeks of bloody battles in Artsakh, a humanitarian ceasefire was brokered in Moscow after over 10 hours of negotiations among the Foreign Ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia. Cessation of hostilities is to allow for the exchange of POWs, other detainees and for the sides to be able to retrieve the bodies of their killed servicemen, in accordance with the standards of the International Committee for the Red Cross.
Hours before the ceasefire was to come into effect, Armenia’s Defense Ministry said that Azerbaijani forces had intensified their military operations, particularly along the southern section of the Artsakh-Azerbaijan Line of Contact. Azerbaijani forces attempted an unsuccessful incursion into the town of Hadrut that is being held by Armenian forces. Violating Armenian airspace, Azerbaijani combat drones also attacked settlements in Armenia’s Syunik region, killing one person and injuring three others.
In a late night post, Artak Beglaryan, Artsakh’s Ombudsman said that he had received definitive information that an Azerbaijani subversive unit that had been able to enter Hadrut this morning, killed two people – a mother and her child with a disability.
As the deadline approached and then passed, some feared the ceasefire would not hold as hostilities continued. Late this evening, during a live press briefing, Artsrun Hovhannisyan of Armenia’s Ministry of Defense said that for the most part, the ceasefire is holding. However, two hours later, Vahram Poghosyan, the spokesperson for Artsakh’s President announced that Stepanakert was being shelled.
Here is a chronology of official updates.
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Agreement Reached on Humanitarian Ceasefire in Moscow
4 a.m.: After almost 11 hours of talks, the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan with their Russian counterpart in Moscow, agreed to a humanitarian ceasefire to allow the sides to exchange POWs, other detainees and retrieve the bodies of the killed.
Below is the text of the agreement:
Statement of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan.
In response to the call by the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, and in accordance to the agreement reached with the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan and the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, the sides agreed to the following steps:
1. A ceasefire will be declared on October 10, 2020 at 12:00 for the exchange of POWs, other detainees and the bodies of the killed with the mediation and according to the standards of the International Committee for the Red Cross.
2. Specific parameters of the ceasefire regime will be agreed upon further.
3. The Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia, with the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, will begin substantive negotiations based on the basic principles of the settlement to achieve a peaceful settlement as soon as possible.
4. The sides affirm that the format of the negotiation process will not change.
Hours Before Ceasefire to Come Into Effect, Stepanakert is Shelled
9:45 a.m.: Artak Beglaryan, Artaskh’s Ombudsman tweeted that Azerbaijani forces are shelling Stepanakert’s civilian areas with missiles. No data on casualties yet. He wrote, “Baku uses the same style of war crimes up until the very last moment.”
10 a.m.: According to Shushan Stepanyan, Defense Ministry Spokesperson, Azerbaijani forces intensified drone strikes along the southern direction of the front following the announcement by the Foreign Ministers of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan of a humanitarian ceasefire that will come into place at noon today.
The units of the Defense Army are repelling the attacks, causing significant losses, both human and material. Stepanyan wrote that the adversary is treacherously trying to change the situation on the ground until noon today when the humanitarian ceasefire comes into place.
Several minutes later, she wrote that the village of Yeritsvank, including also in the Republic of Armenia’s Syunik region, in the direction of the village of Artsvanik near Kapan had come under Azerbaijani drone strikes. There are no casualties.
10:55 a.m.: Artsrun Hovhannisyan of the Ministry of Defense said that the Azerbaijani armed forces are trying to use the last moments until the ceasefire to undertake their military actions; all kinds of attacks are being pushed back successfully.
11:30 a.m.: The Artsakh Defense Ministry released the names of another 28 servicemen killed in action.
Petrosyan, Stepan [Zohraki], b. 1994
Poghosyan, Arshavir [Ashoti], b. 1966
Tevanyan, Davit [Samveli], b. 1989
Goginyan, Tigran [Edvardi], b. 1990
Meliksetyan, Vahe [Samveli], b. 1988
Shushanyan, Narek [Arayiki], b. 2000
Eghiazaryan, Erik [Eduardi], b. 2001
Sargsyan, Poghos [Artyomi], b. 2001
Avetisyan, Gegham [Alberti], b. 2000
Soghoyan, Hakob [Artemi], b. 2000
Mkrtchyan, Artyom [Tigrani], b. 2001
Chatikyan, Kerob [Andraniki], b. 2000
Avetyan, Vardan [Armeni], b. 1998
Virabyan, Davit [Gariki], b. 2001
Mikayelyan, Khachatur [Arnaki], b. 2001
Asryan, Yura [Arshaki], b. 2001
Hovhannisyan, Albert [Artaki], b. 2001
Lalayan, Harutyun [Khachaturi], b. 2001
Martirosyan, Armen [Andraniki], b. 2000
Muradyan, Edgar [Mamei], b. 2000
Hakobjanyan, Artak [Ararati], b. 2000
Gevorgyan, Samvel [Hambardzumi], b. 2000
Vardanyan, Sargis [Samveli], b. 2000
Atoyan, Artur [Sureni], b. 2001
Gevorgyan, Hakob [Asaturi], b. 1983
Skoyan, Arman [Mkhitari], b. 1992
Poghosyan, Arman [Arkadii], b. 2001
Petrosyan, Edgar [Samveli], b. 2002
12 p.m.: Artsrun Hovhannisyan of the Ministry of Defense said that Azerbaijani forces had launched a missile strike in the southern Armenian city of Kapan [in the Republic of Armenia]; he said there were killed and wounded. Fifteen minutes later, Hovhannisyan issued a correction and said the missile strike was not on Kapan but in another direction. He said Azerbaijani drones had hit the Yeritsavank community and the Ardzvanik community near Kapan in the Syunik region of Armenia.
In an interview with Azatutyun, the mayor of the Ardzvanik community Anushavan Harutyunyan confirmed that one civilian was killed and three injured.
Artsakh Defense Army Ordered to Cease Fire
12:10 p.m.: Defense Ministry spokesperson Shushan Stepanyan said the units of the Artsakh Defense Army have been ordered to cease fire.
12:35 p.m.: Defense Ministry spokesperson Shushan Stepanyan reported that Azerbaijani forces, ignoring the ceasefire for humanitarian purposes that was to start at noon on October 10, initiated an attack in the direction of a settlement known as “Karakhambeyli” at 12:05 p.m. The Artsakh Defense Army has taken the necessary steps to counter the adversary’s attack.
1 p.m.: Defense Ministry spokesperson Shushan Stepanyan said the Defense Army is countering the adversary’s attacks in the south. At the same time, Azerbaijan continues shelling the city of Hadrut.
Stepanyan said the statement of the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry about Armenian forces shelling Tartar and Aghdam is false.
Turkey’s Defense Ministry: Azerbaijani Army Showed Great Heroism
1:30 p.m.: The official Twitter account of the Republic of Turkey’s Ministry of National Defence just tweeted: “The Azerbaijani Army showed great heroism and achieved great success in saving the occupied territories. Armenia should give the occupied lands to its original owner. Until this step is taken, we will continue to stand by our Azerbaijani Turkish brothers.”
2:20 p.m.: Azerbaijan’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Jeyhun Bayramov tweeted:
3 p.m.: According to the Armenian Unified Infocenter, prior to the establishment of the humanitarian ceasefire, the Azerbaijani side attempted a diversionary-reconnaissance infiltration toward Hadrut. Although three hours have passed since the ceasefire, operations to blockade and destroy the adversary continue.
The situation along other sections of the front are relatively calm. The operations by the Azerbaijani side appear to be dictated by an attempt to validate the announcement made yesterday by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev that the Azerbaijani side had control over Hadrut.
Hikmet Hajiyev Says Proper Conditions for a Ceasefire Were Not in Place
3 p.m.: During a press conference, Hikmet Hajiyev, assistant to the President of Azerbaijan said that Armenian forces broke the temporary humanitarian ceasefire that was agreed upon by the Foreign Ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia. According to him, Azerbaijani forces are just defending themselves. Hajiyev went on to say that Azerbaijan will never make peace with the occupation and will now act on the diplomatic front as a continuation of its military operations. He stressed that following yesterday’s meeting in Moscow, Azerbaijan proved to the world that Armenia is the only side to this conflict.
Bayramov: Nagorno-Karabakh Will Not Become a Side at the Negotiation Table
Azerbaijan’s Defense Minister, Jeyhun Bayramov said that a humanitarian ceasefire is only for the exchange of bodies and prisoners of war. He noted that it is a complicated procedure, which will be overseen by the International Committee of the Red Cross but it has not started yet. Bayramov said yesterday’s ceasefire agreement showed that the format of the negotiations will not change and that Nagorno-Karabakh will not become a side to the negotiation table as Armenia wanted. He noted that the Azerbaijani side will work with all three OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, despite France’s one-sided position. He praised Russia’s neutrality during the military operations.
Aliyev Says First Part of Military Operations Over, Time for Political Steps
During an interview with Russian RBK, Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan announced that they are ready for peace talks. He announced that the military part or at least its first part has come to an end and that now it is time for political steps, which will guarantee that Azerbaijan gets what rightfully belongs to it. [interview will be aired tomorrow]
3:15 p.m.: Foreign Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anna Naghdalyan: All diplomatic channels are at work to implement (to reach the implementation of) the humanitarian ceasefire agreement reached by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russian.
Artsakh President on Situation in Hadrut
4 p.m.: Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan wrote the following on his Facebook page: I have just returned from Hadrut. As you know, the enemy, ignoring the humanitarian ceasefire agreement, launched a subversive attack in the direction of the regional center. The situation at the moment is completely under the control of the Defense Army. I will speak about the agreements in place and their violations during a press conference to be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow. I hope there will be no new obstacles this time.
Artsakh’s Foreign Affairs Ministry on the Violation of the Humanitarian Ceasefire by Azerbaijan
4 p.m.: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Artsakh issued the following statement on the violation of the humanitarian ceasefire by Azerbaijan.
“We strongly condemn the perfidious violation by Azerbaijan of the agreement on a humanitarian ceasefire for the exchange of prisoners of war and bodies of the killed in action, reached with the mediation of the Russian Federation. Particularly egregious is the fact that the triple alliance of Azerbaijan, Turkey and international terrorists have launched an offensive immediately after the Defence Army of the Republic of Artsakh announced cessation of fire, as part of the humanitarian truce. Azerbaijan’s actions have once again demonstrated that it is a rogue state, which is not willing to fulfill its obligations even for minutes.
“Today’s perfidious attack is a conclusive evidence that Azerbaijan uses the negotiations exclusively as a cover for preparation of military aggressions. Under these conditions, the recognition of the independence of the Republic of Artsakh remains the only way for the international community to stop the rogue country. The international recognition will provide for the necessary legal and political mechanisms to guarantee peace and security both for the Republic of Artsakh, and for the entire region.”
Finding and Removing Unexploded Ordnance in Stepanakert
8:45 p.m.: The Armenian Unified Infocenter announced that groups of sappers/unexploded ordnance technicians from Artskah’s Emergency Situations State Service continue to search, neutralize and remove unexploded ordnance on a number of streets, areas adjacent to civilian infrastructure and residential buildings of Stepanakert. These operations will continue also in the regions in the coming days.
Starting September 27, about 180 cluster bombs have been found. Some of those were found and reported by residents and technicians have already destroyed them on the spot.
Artsakh’s Emergency Situations service urges the population not to touch explosives, as well as cluster munitions and cluster bombs. In case people find unexploded ordnance, they are advised to immediately call the Crisis Management Center of the State Emergency Service at 911, 101,112.
Artsakh’s State Service of Emergency Situations noted that unexploded ordnance is going to be a serious threat to the civilian population for a long time.
Ceasefire is Largely Holding
9 p.m.: Artsrun Hovhannisyan of the Ministry of Defense, during a live press briefing presented the situation on the frontline before and after the ceasefire.
He said overnight, up until the ceasefire, battles were continuing along the Line of Contact; they were particularly intense in the southern direction. Azerbaijani forces were continually trying to advance their positions, but they were being pushed back. According to Hovhannisya, Azerbaijan lost about 200 soldiers, three UAVs, four armored vehicles and sustained other losses. Hours before the ceasefire, the adversary intensified its actions hours but all attempts at an advancement of positions have been successfully countered. The ceasefire is largely being followed at this point in time. There were, however, provocations in given locations and the Armenian side was able to quel them. Before the ceasefire came into force, small Azerbaijani reconnaissance units attempted to enter the city of Hadrut but they were neutralized after the ceasefire. There has not been a large-scale military confrontation. After the ceasefire, in one of the sections under the control of the Defense Army, the adversary was allowed to approach to collect their dead but the process was halted after they used it as an opportunity for provocation. “Therefore, we state that, from this point on, the adversary will only be allowed to retrieve their dead in the presence of representatives of the Red Cross,” Hovhannisyan said.
MFA Statement Regarding Azerbaijan’s Actions Following Ceasefire
10:30 p.m.:Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement regarding Azerbaijan’s actions following the ceasefire.
Following a humanitarian ceasefire agreement mediated by Sergey Lavrov, Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Armenia and Azerbaijan had agreed to a humanitarian ceasefire starting at noon of October 10. Retracting from its commitments made in the ceasefire agreement, Azerbaijan continued military action in different parts of the Contact Line and targeted civilian settlements in Armenia’s Syunik region.
The statement also says that Azerbaijani provocations are accompanied by political statements, which can not be interpreted as anything other than an intent to ensure the ceasefire agreement fails. The MFA also says that in an attempt to conceal its actions, the Azerbaijani side also initiated a misinformation campaign, announcing that the Armenian Armed forces are firing at civilian populations and along the Line of Contact.
The statement concludes saying that the Armenian Foreign Ministry strongly condemns Azerbaijan’s efforts to fail the ceasefire agreement and warns that the Azerbaijani side, under Turkey’s sponsorship, bears the responsibility for the consequences of the situation at hand.
Two Civilians Killed in Hadrut
10:55 p.m.: Artak Beglaryan, Artaskh’s Ombudsman wrote the following post: Today, the staff of Artsakh’s Human Rights Ombudsman received definitive information that the Azerbaijani reconnaissance unit which entered the town of Hadrut in the morning, killed two civilians in their home – a mother and her son with disability. Efforts are underway to clarify the circumstances. Additional information will be published tomorrow.
Severely condemning the continuous atrocities committed by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces against the Artsakh population, I demand the international community give a proper reaction to this cruel crime and to pursue the punishment of those criminals.
Presidents of Russia and Iran Have Telephone Conversation
According to the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin and President of Iran Hassan Rouhani had a telephone conversation today to discuss, among other issues, the situation in Nagorno Karabakh. Putin briefed Rouhani about efforts being undertaken with the mediation of Russia to de-escalate tensions in the region. The Iranian President expressed support for the agreements reached as a result of trilateral consultations of the foreign ministers of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia on a ceasefire for humanitarian purposes, as well as on the launch of substantive negotiations for the earliest possible achievement of a peaceful settlement.
Turkey Weighs in on the Ceasefire Between Azerbaijan and Armenia
Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement on the humanitarian ceasefire brokered by Russia:
“A ceasefire has been declared between Azerbaijan and Armenia on the front line to take effect today at 12:00 local time.
“During the armed conflicts that started on 27 September 2020, Azerbaijan has shown Armenia and the whole world that it has the ability and the self confidence to reclaim its territories under occupation for nearly 30 years.
“In this process, calls for ceasefire were made from all over the world with humanitarian considerations. Consequently Azerbaijan gave Armenia a last opportunity to withdraw from the territories it has occupied.
“The ceasefire which was declared on humanitarian grounds for the exchange of prisoners of war and bodies, is an important first step, but cannot replace a lasting solution. Since the beginning, Turkey has always underlined that it would only support those solutions which were acceptable to Azerbaijan. With this understanding, Turkey will continue to stand by brotherly Azerbaijan on the ground and at the table.”
International Committee of the Red Cross Stands Ready to Facilitate Handover of Bodies of Those Killed in Action
The following is a press release issued by the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC):
Geneva (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) welcomes the agreement on the humanitarian ceasefire of the escalating Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and stands ready, in its role as a neutral intermediary, to facilitate the handover of bodies of those killed in action and the simultaneous release of detainees.
“The ICRC has a long-standing history as a neutral intermediary in conflicts around the world, and it is our hope that this operation can move forward quickly so the remains of those killed in action can be returned to their loves ones and mourned with dignity,” said Martin Schüepp, ICRC Eurasia Regional Director in Geneva. “We are also here to facilitate the release of detainees for the sides of the conflict so that they can be reunited with their families.”
As the conflict escalated in late September, the ICRC offered its services to respond to the humanitarian needs and to act as a neutral intermediary between the sides. It is not involved in political negotiations.
Under international humanitarian law, the law that governs armed conflict, parties to conflict have an obligation to collect and evacuate the dead without distinction of which side they fought for. The ICRC is available to offer technical advice to the sides so that the dead are identified in accordance with international humanitarian law, and then facilitate the return of bodies.
“We are in regular discussions with the sides and expressed our readiness to engage in further discussions on the nature of the involvement of the ICRC to support the return of detainees and human remains, including the logistics and security guarantees for our teams,” said Schüepp. “It is also our hope that this agreement translates into meaningful relief for families after weeks of intense fighting.”
Following the earlier deadly escalation of this conflict along the line of contact in April 2016, the ICRC supported the sides in carrying out similar operations. At that time, thanks to the coordinated efforts, it was possible to handover all the deceased to their families and thus avoid adding new names on the already existing list of more than 4,500 people still unaccounted for since the conflict started in 1992. Since it started working in connection with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in 1992, the organization has repeatedly helped authorities with such operations.