On September 19, Azerbaijani troops began shelling Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh (also known as Artsakh), and other settlements in the region. Reports from Armenian Telegram channels indicate that mobile phone networks in the area have been disrupted, while the local population is seeking refuge in underground shelters. Artillery fire is currently impacting the districts of Stepanakert and Askeran.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry released a statement in which it indicated the start of “local anti-terrorist activities” within the region. “Only legitimate military installations and infrastructure” are being targeted, as per the press release.
The MoD also urged local residents to avoid supporting the Armenian army:
“Considering the deployment of firepower by Armenia’s armed forces formations near residential areas, we urge the civilian population to stay away from military facilities and not support the formations of Armenia’s armed forces. [...] Women, children, elderly people, as well as people with disabilities and the sick will be rendered necessary medical aid and other assistance. They will be provided with drinking water and food.”
Armenia has denied the presence of its armed forces in Nagorno-Karabakh.
In turn, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry stated that “the only way to peace in the region is the complete withdrawal of the Armenian Armed Forces from Karabakh and the dissolution of the regime in Stepanakert.”
Armenia’s Foreign Ministry responded with the following statement:
“As previously, now again the Azerbaijani official reports and mass media continue to disseminate false statements as if there are Armed Forces units of the Republic of Armenia, military equipment, and personnel in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Armenia has repeatedly stated that the Republic of Armenia does not have an army in Nagorno-Karabakh.”
Earlier today, Azerbaijani officials claimed that a car bomb exploded on the Ahmadbaylo-Fuzuli-Shusha highway and killed two people, and then another explosion occurred on the road leading to the Taghavard (Taghaverd) tunnel in the Hadrut (Khojavend) District, killing four Azerbaijani policemen. Baku claims the explosions were caused by mines planted by Armenian “saboteurs.” Nagorno-Karabakh authorities have rejected these accusations.
Armenian sources have raised questions about the authenticity of the incidents, saying that images of one of the damaged vehicles depict a dirt road, while the areas where the explosions reportedly took place are in fact paved.
Azerbaijan claims to have informed Russian peacekeeping forces, as well as the Turkish-Russian Monitoring Center, of the start of its offensive.
“The command of the peacekeeping contingent of the Russian Federation and the leadership of the Turkish-Russian Monitoring Center are informed about the ongoing activities,” read a statement from Azerbaijan's MoD issued prior to the start of shelling.
The Russian Foreign Ministry issued several statements in response to the hostilities, as published by state-owned news agency TASS:
“Russian peacekeepers are continuing to fulfil their functions in Karabakh despite the aggravation. The Russian Federation is deeply alarmed by the sharp escalation of the situation in Karabakh. The Russian Federation calls on the conflicting sides to stop the bloodshed in Karabakh and return to a diplomatic settlement.”