On October 18, the Human Rights Defender of Armenia stated that the Azerbaijani forces stationed in Gegharkunik Province since May have built large shelters, accumulated firewood, and carried out large-scale road construction and fortification works.
The next day, the Ministry of Defense issued a statement, describing the issues raised by the Human Rights Defender as exaggerated, and stating that “there are a number of inaccuracies in his Facebook post, as well as allegations that are detached from reality.”
Following the refutation by the Ministry of Defense, the Human Rights Defender reaffirmed the issues raised by him and published several shots, which showed positions fortified by the Azerbaijani armed forces, as well as built roads.
In response, the Ministry of Defense reaffirmed its refutation and urged the Human Rights Defender to “refrain from disseminating unverified information.”
The Fact Investigation Platform decided to reveal how well-grounded the Human Rights Defender’s allegations are and which side is falsifying the reality.
The alarm by the Human Rights Defender on October 18 referred to the fortification works and accumulated resources by the Azerbaijani armed forces in the vicinity of Sotk, Kut and Verin Shorzha villages of Gegharkunik Province.
A group of journalists from the Fact Investigation Platform visited those villages on October 22 and 23 and took photos of some of the Azerbaijani positions.
Azerbaijani positions did not advance in the vicinity of Sotk village. This is the area where the Sotk gold mine is located. At the end of November last year, when the Azerbaijani armed forces appeared in this area, negotiations between the representative of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces and the Russian side were held for several days.
Following those negotiations, no movement of positions by the Azerbaijani armed forces has occurred so far.
We were not able to photograph the Azerbaijani positions in the village of Kut, as the conscripts were strictly ordered not to allow videos and photos in the area (in violation of the right of journalists to conduct their professional activities). Despite this circumstance, the Fact Investigation Platform had already compiled an approximate map of the positions occupied by the Azerbaijani armed forces, based on information and videos previously posted on the Internet.
They are clearly visible in satellite photos.
The picture was different in the Verin Shorzha section. In May, the Azerbaijani armed forces had crossed the border and penetrated several kilometers into the territory of the Republic of Armenia. There are even places where this penetration is 3 to 4 km in a straight line
And although the Armenian side has its own position in front of each Azerbaijani position, Azerbaijan has significantly fortified its positions during these months. In some places it is even possible to see positions fortified with tires and gabions designed to build special barriers.
The position in the photo is in the territory of Armenia, and the statement by the Ministry of Defense that the fortified positions are on the other side of the border is obviously false.
Another Azeri position is located on the mountain road connecting Verin Shorzha with the village of Tsar (Zar) in Karvachar, about 2 km into the territory of the Republic of Armenia.
The Fact Investigation Platform also photographed this section on May 18 of this year, a few days after the invasion. At that time there was only one big tent in the Azerbaijani position.
Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani armed forces already seem to be fully positioned there. Fortification works have been carried out, the position has been furnished with sacks, tires and other barricades. The Azerbaijani flag has been placed on a metal pole in the same position.
The photo shows almost the same location as in the previous photo, but it was made from a different angle. As we can see, the engineering works carried out in the positions since May are obvious. Azerbaijan has equipped its positions with stone buildings, gabions, tires, etc. on both sides of the road in front of a metal building, a tent and a barrier fixed with tires installed in the Armenian position.
By the way, the Armenian and Azerbaijani positions are located literally at a few meters from each other.
This proves once again the validity the claim by the Human Rights Defender that the Azerbaijani forces who penetrated into the territory of Armenia in May not only are not going to leave their positions, but are also carrying out fortification works.
In addition, in the photo we tried to show the proximity of Azerbaijani forces to the civilian population. In one of the photos, the same positions and the cows grazing in the field at a distance of about 1.5 km are quite visible. This supports the repeated warnings made by the Human Rights Defender that the presence of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces is a direct threat to the lives and daily activities of civilians.
In addition to all this, works executed on the mountain roads in the area are obvious. The satellite photos available to us at the moment do not allow us to compare the road construction works with the previous situation, but it is obvious that huge engineering works have been carried out in the area: widening of roads, construction, adapting them to the movement of equipment, etc.
The mountain road in the photo used to exist, but judging by the fresh layer of soil along the road, we can say that major engineering works have been done on the road. It is also substantiated by the fact that there are several Azerbaijani positions at the foot of the mountain, and the road serves those positions.
Thus, we can state that since May, when the Azerbaijani armed forces invaded the sovereign territory of Armenia and positioned themselves in the vicinity of several villages of Gegharkunik Province, fortification and road construction works have been carried out, reserves have been accumulated. Hence, the Ministry of Defense lies when it describes the Human Rights Defender’s alarms about this as exaggerated or false.
Although we did not manage to gather evidence of fortification works by the Azerbaijani armed forces near the villages of Sotk and Kut, they were obvious in Verin Shorzha, and what the Human Rights Defender said is true.