south front for friday

Southern Karabakh Is In Fact Lost To Azerbaijan, But Armenia Continues Denying This
South Front, Oct 23 2020

As of Oct 23 evening, the situation on the frontline in the Nagorno-Karabakh region remains complicated for Armenian forces as they continue retreating under strikes of the Azerbaijani-Turkish bloc. The main clashes took place in the southern part of the region, where Azerbaijani troops captured another group of abandoned villages: Dolanlar and Bunyadli in the Khojavand district; Dagh Tumas, Nusus, Khalafli, Minbashili and Veysalli in the Jabrayil district; Vanadli and Mirzahasanli in the Zangilan district; Zilanli, Kurd Mahrizli, Mughanli and Alagurshag in the Gubadli district. The Azerbaijani military insists that the Armenians lost control over the border with Iran in the area. The Armenian military denies this, but the situation on the ground indicates that this is mostly propaganda wishful thinking. The Armenian Defense Ministry released a new report claiming that in the recent clashes Azerbaijan lost at least 80 soldiers, 8 armoured vehicles and 4 UAVs. The total numbers claimed by Armenia since the start of the war on Sep 27 can be found here:

Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani side confirmed that Colonel Shukur Hamidov, the national hero of Azerbaijan, died during clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh. This is the first time when Azerbaijani sources confirmed the death of high-ranking officer in the combat zone.

Armenian forces strike military equipment of Azerbaijan

Both Azebaijani and Armenian sources continue releasing photos and videos showing the clashes in the region. The visual evidence released by the sides also confirms the advance of Azerbaijani foroces.

The Turkish-Azerbaijani bloc is now aiming to reach the area of the Lachin corridor linking the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic with Armenia. According to Armenian sources, rocket launchers of the Azerbaijani military has been already shelling the area. The Lachin corridor is a mountain pass within the de jure borders of Azerbaijan, forming the shortest route between Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (Republic of Artsakh). The Azerbaijani advance towards the corridor has been ongoing along the road in the narrow valley of the Akari River. This stretches supply lines of the advancing forces and creates conditions for potentially successful Armenian counter-attacks. Nonetheless, if the Armenian side loses momentum and Azerbaijani forces entrench in the area (even without reaching Lachin), they will be able to regularly shell this vital supply line thus undermining the ability of Armenia to provide supplies to the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. In these conditions, Harutyunyan, posted an open letter to Pres Putin on his Facebook page. Harutyunyan asked the Russian leader to intensify peacekeeping efforts in the zone of the conflict. He also noted that the republic highly appreciates the efforts that Russia is making to resolve the situation in the region. Harutyunyan also recalled that it was Russia that had a decisive role in the conclusion of the 1994 Trilateral Ceasefire Agreement and the de-escalation of the conflict in 2016.

Nonetheless, it seems that one open letter will be not enough to change the Russian (relatively neutral) position towards the conflict. In previous years, the Armenian leadership (especially the government of the current Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan) was providing an open anti-Russian policy. Thus, it would be wrong to expect the Russian intervention to protect Armenian interests in the territory, which even Armenia itself does not recognize as an independent state. Thus, Moscow’s efforts will be mostly focused on the diplomatic field. However, there are several factors that may lead to the more active Russian attitude towards the conflict. For example, on Oct 23, Russia stated its concern regarding the deployment of members of radical militant groups in Karabakh. The increase of the terrorist threat in the region due to the boosting presence of Turkish-backed militants (mostly Islamist radicals) there will push Moscow to more active actions to counter this threat. Another factor is the potential ethnic cleansing of Armenians on the territory captured by Azerbaijan. If this happens and is documented, this will lead to a wide international reaction. Nonetheless, the Karabakh locals (99% of them are ethnic Armenians) are not willing to temp their fate and just flee the advancing Azerbaijani forces.

Azerbaijani Forces Made New Gains In Nagorno-Karabakh
South Front, Oct 23 2020

The Azerbaijani Armed Forces have made more ground gains in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Aliyev announced on Oct 23. According to the President, Azerbaijani forces liberated the following villages: Dolanlar and Bunyadli in the Khojavand district; Dagh Tumas, Nusus, Khalafli, Minbashili and Veysalli in the Jabrayil district; Vanadli and Mirzahasanli in the Zangilan district; Zilanli, Kurd Mahrizli, Mughanli and Alagurshag in the Gubadli district. Earlier today, the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan said its forces had carried out intense strikes on Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh. Moreover, the ministry claimed that Armenian forces are suffering from shortage in supplies. The ministry said in its daily briefing:

The enemy practically lost control of the troops. Due to the lack of regular army units to defend combat positions, civilians are forcibly brought in to replace them.

Armenian forces are sustaining fairly heavy losses while attempting to slow down the advance of Azerbaijani troops in Nagorno-Karabakh. The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is without a doubt heating up. A political settlement doesn’t appear to be near. As for now, Armenia and Azerbaijan can’t even agree on a working ceasefire.

Azerbaijan Takes Control Of Border With Iran, Armenia Says Peacekeepers “Welcome” In Nagorno-Karabakh
South Front, Oct 23 2020

On Oct 22, the Artsakh Ministry of Defense released a new video purportedly showing Syrian militants in Nagorno-Karabakh, fighting alongside the Azerbaijan Armed Forces.

Armenian Ministry of Defense representative Artsrun Hovhannisyan said:

Various sabotage groups of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan penetrate into different settlements in the front-line zone trying to create panic, often just take pictures, sometimes they burn houses in settlements. These enemy groups are very small in number. After one counterattack, they run away from these settlements, do not return for a long time. The brightest evidence of this is Hadrut and Fizuli. Fierce battles are taking place on the Artsakh-Iran border. Full control of Azerbaijan is out of the question. If their troops see the Araks River in some narrow places, this does not mean full control.

He also claimed that Azerbaijani forces tried to advance west, north and northwest but were suppressed. A new video was released showing presumed losses by the Azerbaijan side.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan claimed that UN peacekeepers being brought in was a desirable scenario. He said:

The introduction of peacekeepers is acceptable to us. I can say that Azerbaijan’s views on the composition of peacekeepers will not coincide with Armenia’s views on this issue. If we talk about compromises, then the presence of Russian peacekeepers can also become a compromise version. The Russian Federation has good relations with both Azerbaijan and Armenia. It is very important to reckon with the views of other regional countries, it is important that specific peacekeeping forces stabilize the region, and not vice versa.

So far, according to officially released numbers, 900 Armenian soldiers have lost their lives fighting on the front-line. An Azerbaijani prisoner of war spoke about Turkish specialists who prepared soldiers of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces for war. According to him, they trained soldiers of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces for 10-15 days. He said:

They are still there.

The Iranian Telegram channel Azariha showed the destruction of houses of residents of Iran’s border settlements caused by the actions of Azerbaijani troops placed along the Iranian borders. The Telegram channel wrote:

Instead of deploying its positions in the north-south direction, the Baku forces turned to the east-west direction. On the other hand, Azerbaijan sends drones to Iran and has deployed militants on the Iranian border. Isn’t it time for the Iranian army to declare a buffer zone in the depths of Nagorno-Karabakh?

On the Azerbaijan side, during the day on Oct 22 and on the night of Oct 23, the combat operations continued with varying intensity in the Aghdere, Fizuli-Hadrut-Jabrayil and Gubadli directions. The Armenian forces fired at Baku’s positions using small arms, mortars, and gun-howitzers.

Heavy strikes were inflicted on the armed forces of Armenia in the Fizuli, Jabrayil, and Gubadli directions of the front, several enemy strongholds were destroyed, important territories and high grounds were liberated as a result of the operations conducted by the Azerbaijan Army. The main resources and military infrastructure of the enemy along the entire front were irreparably damaged. There is a shortage of military equipment, weapons, and ammunition, as well as food in the enemy units. The enemy practically lost control of the troops. Due to the lack of regular army units to defend combat positions, civilians are forcibly brought in to replace them.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Alyiev claimed that the entire Azerbaijan-Iran border had come under Azerbaijani control. President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has made a post on his official Twitter account:

With the liberation of Aghband settlement, taking full control over the state border between Azerbaijan and the Islamic Republic of Iran was ensured. I congratulate the people of Azerbaijan and Iran on this occasion. Long live the victorious Azerbaijani Army!

Armenians Lost Border With Iran. Advancing Azerbaijani Forces Are About To Reach Lachin Corridor
South Front, Oct 23 2020

The Armenian defense in the southern part of the Nagorno-Karabakh region seems to be collapsing as the advancing Azerbaijani forces are about to reach the strategic Lachin corridor. On October 23, Azerbaijani troops were filmed near the village of Muradxanlı, which is located in about 15 km from the strategic area. Even if this Azerbaijani unit was just a field recognizance and the main forces of the Turkish-Azerbaijani bloc still have to overcome the Armenian resistance to reach the area, the fact of the Azerbaijani presence there marks the hard situation on the frontline for the Armenians. The cutting off of the Lachin corridor will mark the de-facto lose of the Karabakh war for the Armenian side as the main logistical line between Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic will be broken. The Lachin corridor is a mountain pass within the de jure borders of Azerbaijan, forming the shortest route between Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (Republic of Artsakh).

Azerbaijani troops are in the area of the village of Muradxanlı

Armenian troops captured by Azerbaijani forces

Vestiges of the Bayraktar TB2 drone downed by Armenian forces

Meanwhile, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev announced that his forces took full control of the Azerbaijani-Iranian border after capturing the village of Aghband. Aliyev wrote on his official Twitter account:

With the liberation of Aghband settlement, taking full control over the state border between Azerbaijan and the Islamic Republic of Iran was ensured. I congratulate the people of Azerbaijan and Iran on this occasion. Long live the victorious Azerbaijani Army!

Earlier, the Azerbaijani leader reported via Twitter that Azerbaijani forces have captured a number of villages and settlements in the south of the Karabakh region:

The victorious Azerbaijani Army has liberated Kollugishlag, Malatkeshin, Kand Zangilan, Genlik, Valigulubayli, Garadara, Chopadara, Tatar, Tiri, Amirkhanli, Gargulu, Bartaz, Dallakli villages and Aghband settlement of Zangilan district from occupation. Long live Azerbaijani Army! Karabakh is Azerbaijan! The victorious Azerbaijani Army has liberated Mollavali, Yukhari Rafadinli, Ashaghi Rafadinli villages of Fuzuli district, Sirik, Shikhlar, Mastalibayli, Darzili villages of Jabrayil district from occupation. Long live Azerbaijani Army! Karabakh is Azerbaijan!

Claims of Azerbaijan regarding Armenian strikes on settlements and towns outside the contested region:

The Armenian military denies the collapse of its defense lines in the south and claims that Azerbaijani units appearing on video are just sabotage parties. According to the Armenian side, various Azerbaijan troops tried to advance in the western, northern and northwestern directions, but all of these offensive attempts were repelled. The Azerbaijani military allegedly suffered heavy losses.

The Armenian side insists that Hadrut and Fuzuli towns are in fact not in the hands of Azerbaijan. It insists that various units of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan penetrate into different settlements in the front-line zone trying to create panic and make selfies there. These groups, according to Armenian media, are very small and often run away from Armenian troops. The optimism of Armenian officials are at least surprising. Forces of Azerbaijan continue to take control of settlements and villages in the south of Karabakh. Most of them are empty as the locals (ethnic Armenians) know well what fate they could face. It seems that the south of Karabakh is already lost for Armenia. The Azerbaijani advance along the border with Iran through the relatively flat ground (if one compares it with the rest of Karabakh) appeared to be a success. Now the Azerbaijani military and its allies are working to fully secure the border with Iran and set conditions for operation to capture the Lachin corridor.

Armenian troops are engaged in fighting with the Azerbaijanis in southern Karabakh (18+):

Armenia Launches Ballistic Missiles On Azerbaijan Amid Retreat In Nagorno-Karabakh Region
South Front, Oct 22 2020

On the morning of Oct 22, Armenian forces launched ballistic missiles at targets inside the territory of Azerbaijan. According to the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry, 3 missiles were fired in the direction of the Siyazan region, two in the direction of the Gabala region, and one in the direction of the Kurdamir region. Baku claimed that the strike was aimed at the civilian population and civilian infrastructure. The report provided no details regarding the type of missiles employed. Nonetheless, Armenian forces have so far only employed R-17 Elbrus and OTR-21 Tochka missiles. The Armenian Armed Forces also have several much more modern 9K720 Iskander shot-range ballistic missile systems, but the complex has not yet been employed because the leadership of Armenia is in no hurry to enter a full-out war with Azerbaijan to protect the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (also known as the Republic of Artsakh). The Armenian Defense Ministry denounced the reports as fake but it should be noted that Yerevan was also denying a ballistic missile strike on the Azerbaijani city of Ganja on Oct 16, a strike, which killed or injured several dozens of civilians. Later, Armenian sources spent much time marking military objects located in the city on maps. However, the civilian casualties from that strike are the confirmed fact. In their turn, Azerbaijan claims that it has destroyed at least 3 Armenian tactical ballistic complexes. A few of them were struck on the Armenian border area near Karabakh.

On the evening of Oct 21 and the morning of Oct 22, Azerbaijani forces were developing their offensive operations in the Aghdere-Aghdam, Fizuli-Jabrayil, and Zangilan-Gubadli directions. The Azerbaijani military claimed that it had captured important grounds in Gubadli and destroyed the D-20 battery of the 155th artillery regiment of the Armenian Armed Forces in the Khojavend area. In the Aghdere area, Azerbaijani forces allegedly delivered strikes on the 5th mountain rifle regiment inflicting heavy casualties to the Armenians. According to Azerbaijani President Ilham Alyiev, in the recent operations Azerbaijani forces captured 22 settlements in the districts of Fuzuli, Jabrayil, and Zangilan. These are Gejagozlu, Ashaghi Seyidahmadli, Zargar, Balyand, Papi, Tulus, Hajili, Tinli, Khurama, Khumarli, Sari Babayli, Ucunju Aghali, Hajalli, Girakh Mushlan, Udgun, Turabad, Ichari Mushlan, Malikli, Jahangirbayli, Baharli and Minjivan. Several Armenian T-72 battle tanks as well as BMP-1 and BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles were also captured by Azerbaijan. Fierce clashes in the contested region continue as both Armenia and Azerbaijan accuse each other of sabotaging the diplomatic talks on a non-military settlement of their differences. On October 12, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan even said that there is no diplomatic solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict at this stage. the Armenian Prime Minister said:

Azerbaijan no longer agrees with what we agree or will agree, which means that at this stage it is at least pointless to talk about any diplomatic solution.

Pashinyan also touched on the ongoing battles in Nagorno-Karabakh calling on all Armenians to take arms to repel the Azerbaijani advance. He said that Armenian forces are inflicting heavy losses on the Azerbaijani troops. The PM claimed that more than 10k Azerbaijani soldiers have been killed so far. This number exceeds even that claimed by the Armenian Defense Ministry, according to which Azerbaijan has thus far lost 6,459 troops, 584 armoured vehicles and rocket systems, 23 military planes, 16 helicopters and 202 UAVs. Thus, according to the Armenian side, in recent clashes Azerbaijan has lost over 200 personnel. Even amid the victorious statements about multiple Azerbaijani casualties, the Armenian side admits that clashes have reached the area of the Akari River. Even as Armenia provides few details regarding the current positioning of the sides, this is a de-facto confirmation of the recent Azerbaijani advance. Meanwhile, Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay repeated an earlier claim of the Turkish leadership that his country is ready to openly send its forces to support Azerbaijan if needed. Therefore, even if Armenia is able to stabilize the current situation in the south of Karabakh, Turkey will continue providing Azerbaijan with the means, measures and specialists needed to continue their operations aimed at recapturing the entire region.

Weapons Of Karabakh War: Atmos 200 155mm Self-Propelled Howitzer
South Front, Oct 22 2020

The Atmos 2000 155mm self-propelled howitzer is produced by Soltam Systems of Haifa, Israel. The company is part of Elbit Systems. The Atmos artillery system is available with 155mm 39, 45 and 52 calibre barrels. The development and test phase of the program has been successfully completed and the system has entered full-scale production. As an option, the Atmos 2000 155mm 45 calibres can also be equipped with a Russian 130mm M-46 gun. The Atmos artillery system weighs 22,000 kg. The system is transportable in a C-130 Hercules medium transport aircraft and does not require heavy equipment transporters in order to be relocated over long distances. The Atmos 2000 began trials with the Israeli Defence Force in 2006. The ATMOS can be mounted on any adapted high-mobility 6×6 or 8×8 truck chassis preferred by the customer. The protected cabin of the ATMOS is designed for a crew of 2-6 personnel, a driver, a commander, and an additional three to four crew members along with all personal equipment and small arms. The cabin is equipped with an air conditioning system that is capable of both heating and cooling.

The concept behind the ATMOS can be applied to modernization of legacy towed guns, incorporating advanced new technologies like INS, MVR, ballistic computers, C4I, hydraulics and electrical drives. The Atmos 200 system uses all NATO standard 155mm ammunition. The 155mm 52 calibre Atmos has demonstrated a maximum target range of 41km, using an Extended Range Full Bore Base Bleed (ERFB-BB) projectile. The range using a NATO L15 high explosive projectile is 30km. Atmos also fires the older standard M107 High Explosive projectile and has a range of 22km. Atmos 2000 carries 27 projectiles and charges.

Its main combat tasks include neutralization of sheltered and unsheltered enemy war materiel (including amour material), neutralization of enemy manpower, neutralization of fortified and non-fortified point and area targets. The 155 mm ERFB long range artillery projectile family is representing a new generation of long-range artillery projectile designed for using with modern towed and self-propelled 155 mm weapons with 39, 45 and 52 calibre barrel length. The M02 155 mm ERFB/BB projectile design includes base bleed (BB) unit family providinig important range increase, due to using of efficient composite propellant charge. With using of standard BB unit (in production) max. range is reaching 42 km, while with more advanced BB unit max. range is reaching of more than 44 km. The artillery system is operated by a crew of four or six, including two loaders. When the firing position site has been selected, two large hydraulically operated stabilisation spades are lowered at the rear of the vehicle on either side. Target information is supplied by a surveillance patrol or by a Forward Observation Officer to the Atmos 2000 unit. The computerized Advanced Fire and Control System (AFCS) fitted on the Atmos 2000 includes navigation and aiming systems and ballistic computation system. The AFCS displays the target information, selects the gun traverse and elevation and lays the weapon on the target. The weapon elevation and traverse is hydraulically operated. The weapon system can also be operated manually. Elbit officially announced, on Mar 29 2019, that it had been awarded a $125m (₪460m) contract from the Israeli Ministry of Defense to supply fully automatic self-propelled howitzer gun systems to the Israeli Defense Forces The contract, which also includes the supply of training simulators. It will be performed over a 12-year period.

Putin: Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Started With Brutal Crimes Against Armenian People
South Front, Oct 22 2020

Nagorno-Karabakh conflict started with “brutal crimes” against Armenian people, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said on Oct 22 in a televised speech in “Valdai” Discussion Club. The Public Radio of Armenia quoted the Russian President as saying:

This conflict started not as an interstate conflict or a struggle for territories, but as an ethnic confrontation. Unfortunately, this is a fact when cruel crimes were committed against the Armenian people in Sumgait and then in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Putin added that no-one is interested in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict more than Russia. Moreover, he noted that Russia doesn’t share Turkey’s stand on the issue. The Russian President also revealed that almost 5k people have died since the outbreak of the clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh on Sep 27. Putin said:

According to our data, the number of deaths on both sides is almost 2k. The total number of deaths is already nearing 5k.

Putin said he is in constant communication with both Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev. Moscow is hosting direct talks between the foreign ministers of Armenian and Azerbaijan. Two humanitarian ceasefires have been agreed upon, thus far. Both collapsed within a few days. Russia is playing a leading role in Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks. Nevertheless, a settlement doesn’t appear to be near.

Armenians Claim They Shot Down Another Bayraktar TB2 Over Nagorno-Karabakh
South Front, Oct 22 2020

The Ministry of Defense of Armenia announced on Oct 22 that a Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 combat drown had been shot down over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The ministry released a video and several photos of the drone, which was apparently armed with several MAM-L laser-guided munitions. The photos are yet to be verified. Armenian Forces claimed to shot down a number of Bayraktar TB2 drones over Nagorno-Karabakh since Sep 27. Highly likely, the Armenian side used the photos of the drones that were shot down on Oct 20 to claim a new shot. The area of two alleged accidents is the same. Earlier the Armenian side already repeatedly showed same vestiges of An-2 to claim multiple aircraft shot down. Azerbaijan purchased an unknown number of Bayraktar TB2 combat drones from Turkey’s Baykar in June. The drones have been used to attack Armenian personnel and equipment in Nagorno-Karabakh with great success. Armenian forces are certainly using one of their more advanced air-defense systems, like the S-300PM, the Buk-M1 or the Tor-M2KM. If Armenian forces manage to neutralize the threat of Azerbaijan’s combat drones, the tide of Nagorno-Karabakh battle may shift dramatically.

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