On November 26, during a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev stated that there have been no serious incidents in the area of responsibility of Russian peacekeepers since November 10, 2020.
“I should mention that since the start of the activities of the Russian peacekeeping forces on November 10 last year, there have been no serious incidents in the area of responsibility of the Russian peacekeepers. There were no clashes, no serious events,” Aliyev said.
According to Aliyev, there were only random (isolated) incidents, which do not point to a systemic crisis.
The Fact Investigation Platform studied Aliyev’s words during the bilateral meeting and found a number of false and manipulative statements.
The serious and not random incidents that remained “unnoticed” by Aliyev
Occupation of Khtsaberd and Hin Tagher
On December 11, 2020, units of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces attacked the villages of Khtsaberd and Hin Tagher in the Hadrut region, as a result of which the two villages were occupied, 62 Armenian servicemen were captured, 9 were killed and 8 were wounded.
According to Clause 3 of the trilateral statement, the Russian peacekeeping contingent was to be deployed along the line of contact between Artsakh and Azerbaijan and along the Lachin corridor. In other words, de jure these two villages were under the area of responsibility of the Russian peacekeepers, but in fact there were no Russian peacekeepers there as of December 11, although the Armenian side had previously requested that the peacekeepers also carry out their functions in that area as well. It should be reminded that according to Clause 1 of the trilateral statement, the parties should have remained at their current positions, and Hin Tagher and Khtsaberd were under the control of the Armenian forces at the time of signing the statement.
The Russian peacekeepers reached Hin Tagher and Khtsaberd on December 13, but anyway, the villages came under the control of Azerbaijan.
It is noteworthy that on December 13, 2020, Khtsaberd and Hin Tagher were added to the map of the area of responsibility of Russian peacekeepers published on the website of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, but the next day the two villages were removed from the map.
Changes in the map of the area of responsibility of Russian peacekeepers published on the website of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation
The Russian Defense Ministry or the command of the peacekeeping contingent did not provide any explanation for this incident, as well as for the changes made in the map.
On October 9, 2021, a civilian was killed by an Azerbaijani sniper while carrying out agricultural work in a tractor in the Martakert region of Artsakh. The killed citizen was 55-year-old Aram Tepnants, a resident of Martakert.
The Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan denied its involvement in the incident, while the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation confirmed it.
On October 10, the information bulletin on the activities of the peacekeeping mission stated that a civilian in the village of Mataghis, Martakert region, was shot dead by the Azerbaijani side in the area of responsibility of the peacekeepers.
Screenshot from the Russian Defense Ministry bulletin of October 10
Moreover, Martakert Mayor Misha Gyurjyan told RFE/RL Azatutyun service that one of the peacekeepers was in the tractor.
It should be reminded that a similar incident took place exactly one month later, already in the territory of Armenia, in Khachik village of Vayots Dzor region. The Azerbaijani side fired at a tractor carrying out agricultural work in the field.
On November 8, 2021, the Azerbaijani side fired at civilians carrying out construction works on water supply pipes near the Stepanakert-Shushi road.
The injured workers reported that the Azeri soldier had opened fire from a distance of 3-5 meters, after using offensive words against them.
As a result of the shooting, three people were seriously injured, and one person, 22-year-old Martik Yeremyan, was killed. All of them were employees of the Water Supply and Drainage CJSC of the Republic of Artsakh, and were working that day on the pipeline supplying the positions of the Russian peacekeepers on the outskirts of Shushi.
According to Gagik Poghosyan, director of the Artsakh Water Supply and Drainage Company, both the Russian and Azerbaijani sides were informed about the works. “They saw that we were working, we were turning off water for the peacekeepers in order to carry out emergency work on the water line,” Poghosyan said in an interview with Artsakh TV.
It should be noted that the incident took place in the area of responsibility of the Russian peacekeepers, in the midway between two positions of the peacekeepers, at a distance of about 400 meters from them.
Two drone strikes on the positions of Artsakh
On August 11, 2021, strike drones were used in the direction of the positions of the Artsakh Defense Army. According to the Defense Army, the Armenian side had no losses.
The day before, in the southwestern part of Artsakh, in the Shosh-Mkhitarashen section, Azerbaijan had violated the ceasefire by targeting Armenian positions with firearms, as well as anti-tank grenade launchers.
On October 14, 2020, the Azerbaijani side opened fire in the direction of the Defense Army base, as a result of which 6 Armenian servicemen were wounded. The next day, on October 15, in the north-eastern section of Artsakh, the Azerbaijani side opened fire on the ambulance of the Defense Army.
On November 9, 2021, the Artsakh Prosecutor’s Office provided summary information on the crimes committed by Azerbaijan against the Armenians of Artsakh since November 9 of 2020.
Thus, according to the report, 2 civilians and 9 servicemen were killed, 37 people (28 servicemen) received various gunshot wounds, there was a murder attempt against 68 people (44 of them servicemen), 6 persons were physically abused, and 2 people were threatened with murder.
“Five residential houses, 3 agricultural machinery, 7 vehicles (6 military), 2 construction equipment, 3 gardens and sowing areas were set on fire, 1 group of cattle was targeted with long-range firearms,” the press release of the Artsakh Prosecutor’s Office reads.
The incidents took place not on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, but in the sovereign territory of Armenia
Continuing his speech during the meeting with Putin, Aliyev also referred to the clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan and insisted that they took place on the border between the two countries, which is not in the area of responsibility of the Russian peacekeepers.
“There have been clashes on the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia, but it is not the area of responsibility of Russian peacekeepers. However, of course, it forces us to be watchful, also speak in a trilateral format, on how to control the risks, minimize them and work for a comprehensive normalization of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations,” Aliyev said.
However, this propaganda statement of Aliyev is manipulative and false. Since May, the clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan have mostly taken place not on the border, but in the sovereign territory of Armenia, in the territories occupied by the Azerbaijani forces in Gegharkunik and Syunik provinces of Armenia.
Thus, since the beginning of the year, 9 out of 12 deaths of Armenian servicemen in combat conditions have been in the territories of Syunik and Gegharkunik provinces invaded by the Azerbaijani forces.
In the satellite photo, the territories occupied by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces in Syunik Province are marked in red, and the bases are marked with stars.
It should be reminded that back in May, the Fact Investigation Platform geolocated the videos on the Internet and revealed that Azerbaijani forces had invaded more than 1.6 km in the north-eastern section of the Sev Lake in Syunik province, and later it became clear that Azeris had invaded about 3.5 km.
The situation is identical in Gegharkunik province, where, in some place, the Azerbaijani forces penetrated more than 3 km into the territory of Armenia, taking under their control an area of more than 20 square kilometers.
The satellite photo shows in red the areas occupied by Azerbaijan near the villages of Kut and Verin Shorzha in Gegharkunik province.
On October 22 and 23, journalists of the Fact Investigation Platform visited those villages and photographed the fortified positions of Azerbaijan in the sovereign territory of Armenia.On November 16, the hostilities in the northern positions of Syunik, west of Ishkhanasar (during which 3 Armenian servicemen were killed and about 32 were captured) took place not only at the border, but mostly in the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia, at a depth of 1.5 km.
The Azerbaijani military equipment was struck half a kilometer from the border.
It should be reminded that according to the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry, the Azerbaijani side had 7 killed and 10 wounded servicemen.
Thus, we can state that the statement of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev during the Putin-Aliyev bilateral meeting that there were no serious incidents in the area of responsibility of Russian peacekeepers during the year is false. The claim that the clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan took place on the border between the two countries is also false.