Azerbaijan-Armenia: Baku’s forces demand total surrender with full-blown war feared

Azerbaijan launched a military operation against a breakaway region controlled by ethnic Armenians on Tuesday, demanding its total surrender.

Baku’s forces used artillery and drones to bombard parts of Nagorno-Karabakh, over which Azerbaijan and Armenia have fought since the 1991 break up of the Soviet Union.

On Tuesday night, separatist authorities said at least 28 people had been killed as shelling hit the regional capital, Stepanakeret, and other sites.

Nikol Pashinyan, Armenia’s prime minister, said Azerbaijan had launched a “ground offensive” and separatist sources said there was fighting across the entire front line.

The conflict raised fears of a return to full-blown war in the volatile Caucus region, where Russia has acted as a peacekeeper until its attention turned to Ukraine.

During the last war in 2020 Azerbaijan gained control of swathes of territory in Nagorno-Karabakh with the crucial help of Turkish-supplied drones.

A video by a Turkish tourist captured rocket fire
A video by a Turkish tourist captured rocket fire

On Tuesday, Baku demanded the total surrender of what it called the “illegal” regime, in an apparent attempt to bring Nagorno-Karabakh wholly under its control.

“In order to stop anti-terrorist measures, the illegal Armenian armed forces must raise a white flag, surrender the weapons and the illegal regime must dissolve itself,” Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry said.

“Otherwise, the anti-terrorist measures will continue until the end.”

Mr Pashinyan said there were no Armenian armed forces in Nagorno-Karabakh, which is reliant on Yerevan’s political support and almost entirely ethnically Armenian.

On Tuesday, Stepanakert residents fled into their basements as Azerbaijani artillery pounded the city.

Video footage showed the top floor of one residential building gutted by shelling with nearby parked cars crumpled under debris.

Other residents posted clips of air-raid sirens wailing and heavy gunfire in the background.

‘No opportunity to evacuate’

Fears of ethnic-cleansing were raised after Karabakh’s ombudsman reported that Azerbaijan’s forces had surrounded the village of Sarybaba near the border with Armenia.

Gegham Stepanynan said the local school has been damaged by shelling and there was “no opportunity to evacuate the residents”.

The US and Europe demanded an immediate halt to the Azerbaijani military operation.

“Baku’s promise to refrain from military action was broken. Azerbaijan must immediately stop shelling and return to the negotiating table,” Annalena Baerbock, Germany’s foreign minister, said on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

The European Union condemned Azerbaijan’s “devastating” attacks on the region.

Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry said that the EU was “deliberately misrepresenting” Baku’s reasoning for launching the military operation.

It claimed that the offensive was ordered after six Azerbaijani citizens were killed by landmines in two separate incidents on Tuesday morning, which it blamed on “illegal Armenian armed groups”.

Turkey backed the offensive saying Baku had a right to take whatever measures it deemed necessary on its “sovereign territory”.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, expressed concern about the “escalation” but Russian TV propagandists celebrated the attack as a rebuke to Armenia for siding with the West on Ukraine.

Conflict since Soviet break-up

Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought over Nagorno-Karabakh since the break-up of the Soviet Union.

At least 7,000 people were killed in a five-week war there in 2020 before Russia negotiated a ceasefire.

With the Kremlin distracted by the war in Ukraine, analysts fear that Azerbaijan not only wants to restore control of the territory it seized in 2020, but to drive ethnic Armenians from the area.

“With its military operation, Baku appears to be trying to establish full control over Nagorno-Karabakh… The latest fighting might lead ethnic Armenians living in the region to flee,” Olesya Vartanyan, a South Caucasus analyst at Crisis Group, said.

Azerbaijan earlier this year imposed a de facto blockade on Nagorno-Karabakh, leading to an acute shortage of food and medicine.

Last week, Armenian officials warned that Baku was preparing its forces for an assault after Azerbaijani military vehicles were spotted with markings similar to ones used by the Russian army prior to the invasion of Ukraine.

In Yerevan, hundreds of protesters gathered outside government buildings on Tuesday afternoon, responding to a call by opposition parties to take to the streets.

‘Calls to stage a coup’

Nikol Pashinyan, the prime minister and a former journalist who came to power after leading a peaceful revolution in 2018, hit out at calls for a “coup” in the country as protesters rallied outside his office.

“We must not allow certain people, certain forces to deal a blow to the Armenian state,” Mr Pashinyan said in a televised address.

“There are already calls, coming from different places, to stage a coup in Armenia.”

Opposition parties have accused the former revolutionary leader of making too many concessions to Azerbaijan which overwhelmed Armenian militarily in 2020.

Protesters in Yerevan on Tuesday also gathered around the embassy of Russia amid fury at Moscow for failing to meet its peace-keeping mandate and stand up for Karabakh’s Armenians.

In Russia, some of the country’s top propagandists gloated about Azerbaijan’s offensive.

Margarita Simonyan, the head of Russia’s RT TV channel who herself has Armenian heritage, called Mr Pashinyan “Judas” for cosying up to Western powers.

“Karabakh: It’s tragic, hopeless - yet, predictable,” she said on social media.

“The Armenian authorities themselves gave up holy Armenian land.”


07:54 PM BST

Live blog is now closed

Thanks for following today’s coverage of Azerbaijan’s military action in Nagorno-Karabak. This live blog is now closed.


06:42 PM BST

Russia 'evacuates almost 500 civilians'

Moscow has evacuated hundreds of civilians from the most dangerous parts of Nagorno-Karabakh, according to Russian news agencies.

Of the 469 people evacuated, 185 were children, Russia’s defence ministry said.

Several children were reported to have been sent to hospital with injuries after the region’s capital was shelled earlier today.


06:37 PM BST

'We've been let down by the international community'

Separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh have blamed the international community for failing to prevent an attack by Azerbaijan on the contested region.

“By ignoring warnings about Azerbaijan’s criminal intentions and refusing to act accordingly, all the responsible international actors failed to prevent yet another Azerbaijani [act of] aggression,” they said in a statement.


06:26 PM BST

Turkey defends Azerbaijan's military action

Turkey has come to the defence of its ally as it said Azerbaijan’s attacks on Nagorno-Karabakh were the result of “legitimate and justified concerns”.

The Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement: “As a result of the legitimate and justified concerns it has repeatedly expressed regarding the situation on the ground in the nearly three years since the end of the Second Karabakh War, Azerbaijan has had to take the measures it deems necessary on its own sovereign territory.”

However, it added that only a “comprehensive negotiation process” could restore peace to the contested region, which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan despite its predominantly Armenian population.


06:08 PM BST

Protesters and police clash in Armenian capital

Protesters in Armenia’s capital Yerevan have clashed with law enforcement following calls for prime minister Nikol Pashinyan to resign, according to local television reports.

Some demonstrators attempted to break through a police cordon into government buildings and threw bottles at police and windows.


06:05 PM BST

Reports: Five dead and dozens wounded in fighting

Five people have been killed and 80 injured as Azerbaijan attempts to advance into Nagorno-Karabakh, according to Armenian media.


05:56 PM BST

Six villages evacuated, say separatists

Nagorno-Karabakh separatists say six villages have been evacuated amid attacks by Azerbaijan on the disputed territory.


05:00 PM BST

Azerbaijan 'throwing artillery and drones' at front line

Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh said Azerbaijan’s army was using “combat aviation”, artillery and attack drones across the front line.

“Azerbaijani Armed Forces are using artillery and rocket fire, attack UAVs (drones), combat aviation,” the Armenian separatist army in Karabakh said on social media.

It added: “Fighting continues along the entire line of contact.”


04:57 PM BST

Baku hits back after EU calls for ceasefire

Azerbaijan has rejected EU calls to end its attacks on Nagorno-Karabakh, claiming it was “fully committed to... restoring its constitutional structure on the territory of Azerbaijan.”

Its foreign ministry said in a statement: “We regretted the European Union’s statement that deliberately misrepresents the reasons for the current military escalation, as well as the steps taken by Azerbaijan to end the illegal activities of the Armenian armed forces against both the civilian population and the military in the sovereign territories of Azerbaijan.”

Armenia claims it had withdrawn its army following the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War.


04:54 PM BST

Azerbaijan says its forces have broken through Armenian lines in Karabakh

Azerbaijani forces have broken through a line of contact with Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh in several places and are determined to fulfil their strategic goals, Hikmet Hajiyev, foreign policy adviser to President Ilham Aliyev, told Reuters on Tuesday.

Mr Hajiyev was speaking after his country launched military action in Karabakh, a mountainous region internationally recognised as Azerbaijani, part of which is run by breakaway ethnic Armenians who say it is their ancestral homeland.


04:33 PM BST

Pictured: An explosion and smoke over Nagorno-Karabakh

In this photo taken from video released by Defense Ministry of Azerbaijan on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023, explosion flame rises over an area which Azerbaijan says hosts Armenian forces' positions in the breakaway territory of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan on Tuesday declared that it started what it called an "anti-terrorist operation" targeting Armenian military positions in the Nagorno-Karabakh region and officials in that region said there was heavy artillery firing around its capital. ()
In this photo taken from video released by Defense Ministry of Azerbaijan on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023, explosion smoke rises over an area which Azerbaijan says hosts Armenian forces' positions in the breakaway territory of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan on Tuesday declared that it started what it called an "anti-terrorist operation" targeting Armenian military positions in the Nagorno-Karabakh region and officials in that region said there was heavy artillery firing around its capital. (Defense Ministry of Azerbaijan via AP)

04:30 PM BST

Germany's Baerbock to hold talks on Azerbaijan at UN General Assembly

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said she would hold talks at the United Nations General Assembly on Azerbaijan’s decision to launch military action in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Speaking on the sidelines of the assembly in New York, Ms Baerbock said Azerbaijan had broken its promise not to resort to military action and that she would hold talks in a bid to bring Baku back to the negotiating table.


04:20 PM BST

Azerbaijan urges Armenian separatists to lay down arms

Azerbaijan urged Armenian separatists in the breakaway region of Karabakh to lay down their arms, offering talks with Armenian representatives in the town of Yevlakh if they surrendered.

“In order to stop anti-terrorist measures, the illegal Armenian armed forces must raise the white flag, surrender all weapons, and the illegal regime must dissolve itself. Otherwise, the anti-terrorist measures will continue until the end,” Azerbaijan’s presidency said.


04:09 PM BST

Pictured: Homes damaged following reported shelling of region's capital

A damaged residential apartment building following shelling is seen in Stepanakert
A damaged residential apartment building following shelling is seen in Stepanakert - Gegham Stepanyan via AP/Gegham Stepanyan via AP

04:05 PM BST

Mapped: The Lachin corridor linking Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh


03:17 PM BST

Armenian PM criticises calls for coup

Armenian prime minister has criticised calls for a “coup” in Armenia, as protesters gathered outside government offices in Yerevan, hours after Azerbaijan launched a military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenia’s opposition has accused Nikol Pashinyan of being weak on Karabakh, a region mostly populated by ethnic Armenians over which Yerevan and Baku have been locked in a dispute over decades.

“We must not allow certain people, certain forces to deal a blow to the Armenian state,” Mr Pashinyan said in a televised address.

“There are already calls, coming from different places, to stage a coup in Armenia.”


03:03 PM BST

'Stop the shelling', says German foreign minister

Germany’s foreign minister has said Azerbaijan had broken its promise not to resort to military action on Nagorno-Karabakh, urging Baku stop shelling and return to the negotiating table.

“Baku’s promise to refrain from military action was broken. Azerbaijan must immediately stop shelling and return to the negotiating table,” Annalena Baerbock said on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.


02:46 PM BST

Pictured: Children shelter in schools amid 'non-stop shelling'


02:38 PM BST

'Two dead and 23 wounded' as civilians attacked

Two civilians had been killed and nearly two dozen injured in Nagorno-Karabakh since Azerbaijan launched its so-called anti-terror operation, according to a regional official.

“The number of civilian injuries has increased to 23. The recorded casualties among civilians are two,” Gegham Stepanyan, the human rights ombudsman, said on social media.


02:34 PM BST

Azerbaijan 'using weapons and social media' in attempted advance

Azerbaijani forces are using “various types of weaponry” and social media “influence measures” as it attempts to push into the disputed territory, Nagorno-Karabakh’s army has said.


02:29 PM BST

Blinken to hold talks on ending 'egregious' attacks

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will hold urgent talks today on ending the “egregious” attacks by Azerbaijan on Nagorno-Karabakh.

An official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the incident was “paticularly egregious and particulary dangerous” after aid routes were opened yesterday in a bid to ease tensions.


02:16 PM BST

Russian propagandists 'gloating about Azerbaijan's attack'

Russia’s top propagandists are almost gloating about Azerbaijan’s attack, Nataliya Vasilyeva writes.

Margarita Simonyan, the head of Russia’s RT TV channel who herself has Armenian heritage, on Tuesday called Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan “Judas” for trying to get the West to negotiate with Azerbaijan.

“Karabakh: It’s tragic, hopeless - yet, predictable,” she said on social media. “The Armenian authorities themselves gave up holy Armenian land.”

Russia has come under strong criticism from Armenia for abandoning what it used to call its strategic ally as Russia’s determination for standing up for Karabakh’s Armenians has markedly waned since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Yerevan has accused Moscow’s peace-keepers of failing to intervene when Baku-affiliated groups blocked the only major highway used to bring supplies to the area.

Armenia’s Prime Minister Pashinyan has courted the United States and EU nations such as France in a last ditch attempt to help the Karabakh regions.


02:04 PM BST

France wants UN meeting amid fears of war

France is seeking an urgent UN Security Council meeting on the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, amid fears it could spill into a full-scale war.

Its foreign ministry has called on Baku to immediately stop hostilities and comply with international law.

Earlier today, Armenia’s foreign ministry asked the body to intervene to stop Azerbaijan’s military actions in the disputed territory.


01:45 PM BST

Armenia: Azerbaijan making 'false statements' about army presence

Azerbaijan is falsely claiming that Armenia had army units stationed in Nagorno-Karabakh, according to the Armenian defence ministry.

It said it had withdrawn all of its forces following the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War.

Azerbaijan says it is using “high-precision weapons” to target Armenian forces, although there have been reports of injured civilians and destroyed apartment blocks.


01:39 PM BST

EU condemns Azerbaijan's 'anti-terrorist operations'

The EU has called on Azerbaijan to halts military action in Nagorno-Karabakh, issuing a condemnation of its “anti-terrorist operations”.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, added that the bloc is fully engaged in facilitating the dialogue between Azerbaijan and Armenia.


01:25 PM BST

Watch: Azerbaijani forces destroy air defence system


01:18 PM BST

Pictures: Apartments in Stepanakert 'destroyed by shelling'


01:14 PM BST

Azerbaijan 'advancing' in Nagorno-Karabakh

Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh say Azerbaijani forces are trying to advance into the disputed region and that its forces were “resisting” the push.

“The Azerbaijani Armed Forces are trying to advance into depth of Artsakh,” it said, using the Armenian name for the territory. “The Defence Forces continue to resist Azerbaijani’s offensive along the entire line of contact.”


01:10 PM BST

Children 'sent to hospital' after village shelled

Wounded children have been taken to hospital after Azerbaijan shelled the village of Sarnaghbyur in Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenian media reports.

Arevik children’s hospital in Stepanakert, the region’s de-facto capital, apparently said it had received “six to seven” children but did not provide details on their condition.

It has also been reported that children are sheltering in basements as their homes are bombarded.


01:04 PM BST

Azerbaijan must halt 'devastating' attacks, says EU chief

EU chief Charles Michel has called on Azerbaijan to halt its military operation in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

“Devastating news coming from former Nagorno-Karabakh oblast today,” Mr Michel, president of the European Council, wrote on social media.

“Military actions of Azerbaijan must be immediately halted to allow for a genuine dialogue between Baku and Karabakh Armenians.”


01:01 PM BST

Pictured: Armenian soldier stands guard in Nagorno-Karabakh

Armenian soldier stands guard next to Nagorno-Karabakh's flag in the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh
Armenian soldier stands guard next to Nagorno-Karabakh's flag in the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh - Sergei Grits/AP

12:53 PM BST

Russia 'warned about military action minutes before it started'

Azerbaijan warned Russian peacekeepers in Karabakh about its military action against separatists just minutes before launching it, according to the Kremlin.


12:49 PM BST

Azerbaijan committing 'genocide', warns official

Azerbaijan has unleashed “genocide” on Nagorno Karabakh as it targets civilians, the region’s human rights ombundsman has claimed.

Gegham Stepanyan wrote on Twitter: “Azerbaijan has initiated a large-scale attack against Artsakh/Nagorno Karabakh, the surroundings of civilian communities, including Stepanakert are also targeted.

“This is genocide, nothing else. And the mediators promise us rights and security within Azerbaijan.”


12:43 PM BST

Azerbaijan demands 'complete withdrawal' of Armenian forces

Azerbaijan is demanding the “complete withdrawal” of Armenian forces from Nagorno-Karabakh region to halt its military action in the disputed territory.

Baku’s defence ministry said: “The only way to achieve peace and stability in the region is the unconditional and complete withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan and the dissolution of the so-called [Armenian separatist] regime.”


12:40 PM BST

Armenia asks UN and Russia to intervene

Armenia’s foreign ministry has urged the UN security council and Moscow to to stop Azerbaijan’s “military actions” in Nagorno-Karabakh, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.

Azerbaijan has launched “anti-terrorist operations” in the region, with reports that its de-facto capital is being bombarded by artillery.


12:35 PM BST

What is Nagorno-Karabakh?

Nagorno-Karabakh, known as Artsakh by Armenians, is a mountainous region at the southern end of the Karabakh mountain range.

Although internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, its 120,000 inhabitants are predominantly ethnic Armenians. They have their own government, which is close to Armenia but not officially recognised by it.

Armenians, who are Christian, claim a long presence in the area, dating back to several centuries before Christ.

Azerbaijan, whose inhabitants are mostly Turkic Muslims, also claims deep historical ties to the region.


12:31 PM BST

Welcome to the live blog

Good afternoon and welcome to the live blog.

We’ll be bringing you all the updates as Azerbaijan launches “anti-terrorist operations” in Nagorno-Karabakh.

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