Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov said in an interview with Real TV on June 26 that the Azerbaijani armed forces had not shelled the city during the attack on Shushi.
“President Ilham Aliyev instructed to take into consideration that it is the cultural center of Azerbaijan. That is why we did not carry out artillery strikes,” Hasanov said.
The Fact Investigation Platform studied the materials published during the 44-day war, as well as the testimonies of journalists who visited Shushi in those days, to find out whether Hasanov’s statement was true.
Targeting of Shushi during the war
In the first days of the large-scale war that started on September 27, Shushi was not shelled with the same intensity as the other cities of Artsakh, such as Stepanakert, Hadrut, Martakert, Martuni, etc.
However, from time to time, the Azerbaijani side fired heavy artillery shells at the city, damaging its infrastructure and buildings.
In particular, on October 4, the House of Culture in Shushi was bombed, as a result of which the building inaugurated in 2017 almost turned into ruins.
FIP.am journalists took photos of the bombed building.
The next strike targeted the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral, the main symbol of the Armenian cultural heritage of Shushi. On October 8, the Azerbaijani armed forces twice shelled the church, causing significant damage to the building.
On October 7, FIP.am journalists reported that the city hospital had also been damaged by the bombing.
Rockets also landed in the yards of residential houses.
In the second half of the war, the city became more intensively targeted. The Azerbaijani forces apparently aimed to force the civilians to leave the city, which would make it easier to capture Shushi.
On October 29, President of Artsakh Arayik Harutyunyan delivered a message from Shushi, stating that the Azerbaijani forces were only at a maximum of 5 kilometers away from the city.
The journalists of the Fact Investigation Platform visited Shushi on November 3 and 5. The city had already changed beyond recognition. Most of the buildings were damaged. The city was constantly bombed, and it had become impossible for people to stay on the streets.
The apartment building in front of Ghazanchetsots, as well as the school next to the church, were significantly damaged. There were traces of shelling everywhere. On November 5, it was already impossible to be in the city. The Azerbaijani forces were almost in the city, even shelling the city center with a grenade launcher.
On November 9, Spokesperson for President of Artsakh Vahram Poghosyan posted on Facebook that the city of Shushi was completely out of the control of Armenian forces. Hours later, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan insisted that the fighting for Shushi continued.
However, hours later, Nikol Pashinyan stated that he had signed a statement with the presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan to end the Karabakh war starting 01:00am.
According to the statement, Shushi and most of the territories of the Artsakh Republic went under the control of Azerbaijan.
After the war, FIP.am found out that the Azerbaijani armed forces had destroyed the Kanach Zham Church in Shushi. The dome and the bell tower of the church were almost completely destroyed.
Thus, the statement of the Minister of Defense of Azerbaijan that they did not carry out artillery attacks on the city of Shushi is manipulative, as evidence shows that as of November, the city was significantly damaged by Azerbaijani strikes.