south front for thursday

Azerbaijani Military Targeted Russian Post on Armenia’s Border With Iran
South Front, Oct 29 2020

The Azerbaijani Armed Forces have targeted a Russian post on Armenia’s border with Iran, the WarGonzo Telegram Channel reported on Oct 29. The Russian border guards directorate in Armenia, 4,500-man strong, along with the Armenian border guards is responsible for the protection of the Soviet-era border of Armenia with Turkey and Iran. According to WarGonzo, the Russian post was targeted with at least four shells. No human losses were reported as a result of the attack. In a statement, the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan denied attacking any post on the Armenian-Iranian border. The ministry said such claims are “complete misinformation,” accusing Armenian forces of targeting Azerbaijan’s border with Iran. the statement reads:

We reiterate that we do not have any military objectives in Armenia.

The Ministries of Defense of Russia and Armenia have not released an official comment on the matter, so far. False information are usually dismissed within a few hours. If confirmed, the attack will be a violation of Armenia’s sovereignty and an aggression against the Russian military. Azerbaijan could face serious consequences.

Armenian-Azerbaijani War After One Month
South Front, Oct 28 2020

After a month of war, the Turkish-Azerbaijani bloc continues to keep the initiative in the conflict, exploiting its advantage in air power, artillery, military equipment and manpower. The coming days are likely to show whether Ankara and Baku are able to deliver a devastating blow to Armenian forces in Karabakh in the nearest future or not. If Armenian forces repel the attack on Lachin, a vital supply route from Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh, they will win the opportunity to survive till the moment when the ‘international community’ finally takes some real steps to pressure Turkey and Azerbaijan enough to force them to stop the ongoing advance. If this does not happen, the outcome of the war seems to be predetermined. Meanwhile, Azerbaijani forces continue their advance in the region amid the failed US-sponsored ceasefire regime. Their main goal is Lachin. In fact, they have been already shelling the supply route with rocket launchers and artillery. The distance of 12-14km at which they were located a few days ago already allowed this. Now, reports appear that various Azerbaijani units are at a distance of about 5-8 km from the corridor. Armenian forces are trying to push Azerbaijani troops back, but with little success so far. The advance is accompanied by numerous Azerbaijan claims that Armenian forces are regularly shelling civilian targets and that the ongoing advance is the way to deter them. Baku reported on the evening of October 27 that at least four civilians had been killed and 10 wounded in Armenian strikes on Goranboy, Tartar and Barda. On the morning of October 28, the Armenians allegedly shelled civilian targets in Tovuz, Gadabay, Dashkesan, and Gubadl.

On the morning of Oct 28, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry claimed that in response to these Armenian violations its forces had eliminated a large number of enemy forces, an “OSA” air-defense system, 3 BM-21 «Grad» rocket launchers, 6 D-30, 5 D-20, and 1 D-44 howitzers, 2 2A36 «Giatsint-B» artillery guns, a 120 mm mortar, a “Konkurs” anti-tank missile and 6 auto vehicles. On Oct 27, Azerbaijani sources also released a video allegedly showing the assassination of Lt-Gen Jalal Harutyunyan by a drone strike. Azerbaijani sources claim that he was killed. These reports were denied by the Armenian side, which insisted that the prominent commander was only injured. Nonetheless, the Karabakh leadership appointed Mikael Arzumanyan as the new defense minister of the self-proclaimed republic. On the evening of Oct 27, the Armenian Defense Ministry released a map showing their version of the situation in the contested region. Even according to this map, Armenian forces have lost almost the entire south of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijani forces are close to the Lachin corridor. An interesting fact is that the Armenians still claim that the town of Hadrut is in their hands. According to them, small ‘enemy units’ reach the town, take photos and then run away. Al-Hadath TV also released a video showing Turkish-backed Syrian militants captured during the clashes. Now, there is not only visual evidence confirming the presence of members of Turkish-backed militant groups in the conflict zone, but also actual Syrian militants in the hands of Armenian forces.

Experts who monitor the internal political situation in Armenia say that in recent days the Soros-grown team of Pashinyan has changed its rhetoric towards a pro-Russian agenda. Many prominent members of the current Pashinyan government and the Prime Minister himself spent the last 10 years pushing a pro-Western agenda. After seizing power as a result of the coup in 2018, they then put much effort into damaging relations with Russia and turned Armenia into a de-facto anti-Russian state. This undermined Armenian regional security and created the conditions needed for an Azerbaijani-Turkish advance in Karabakh. Now, the Pashinyan government tries to rescue itself by employing some ‘pro-Russian rhetoric.’ It even reportedly asked second President of Armenia Robert Kocharyan to participate in negotiations with Russia as a member of the Armenian delegation. It should be noted that the persecution of Kocharyan that led to his arrest in Jun 2019 was among the first steps taken by Pashinyan after he seized power. Kocharyan was only released from prison in late Jun 2020. Despite these moves in the face of a full military defeat in Karabakh, the core ideology of the Pashinyan government remains the same (anti-Russian, pro-Western and NATO-oriented). Therefore, even if Moscow rescues Armenia in Karabkah, the current Armenian leadership will continue supporting the same anti-Russian policy.

Azerbaijan Is Angry: Armenians Open Fire At Its Troops Peacefully Advancing In Nagorno-Karabakh
South Front, Oct 27 2020

The US-brokered humanitarian ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh collapsed immediately after its start on the morning of Oct 26. Clashes between the sides did not stop even for a minute and Yerevan and Baku immediately accused each other of sabotaging the peace efforts. As of the evening of Oct 26, Pashinyan officially stated that the US-brokered ceasefire failed, while Aliyev said:

The mediators must either achieve the withdrawal of occupying forces, or move away from the path of Baku.

It seems that the estimation of the Karabakh conflict as an ‘easy case’ by Trump did not stand the test of reality. In a separate statement, the Azerbaijani President said that Turkish F-16 jets, which are deployed in Azerbaijan (just a few days ago the top leadership of Turkey and Azerbaijan was denying this) will be employed to protect his country in response to any act of ‘foreign aggression.’ It is interesting to look how the official narrative of Azerbaijan and Turkey has been shifting from claims about Turkish non-involvement in the war to admitting the direct military participation of Ankara in the military escalation. The town of Qubadli and nearby villages were also captured by Azerbaijan as its media and diplomats were blaming Armenians for ceasefire violations. Apparently, the cowardly Armenian forces violate the ceasefire regime by attacking the peacefully advancing Azerbaijani troops. The setbacks in the south of Karabakh was confirmed by the Armenian Defense Ministry, but insisted that the situation is still under full control. If this is under full control, it’s hard to imagine how the Armenian side sees the variant of the situation when all is not under control.

During the past days, the Azerbaijani-Turkish bloc continued its advance towards the Lachin corridor, a strategic area where the shortest route between Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is located. According to reports, after the recent gains Azerbaijani troops are now about 10-12km from the area. Azerbaijani forces are now working to secure their recent gains and establish strong points there. After this, they will likely establish fire control over the route thus undermining the Armenian ability to send supplies to Karabakh. Then, the Turkish-Azerbaijani bloc will likely push towards Stepanakert. Armenian sources ease the retreats with regular statements about the losses of Azerbaijan accompanied by videos and photos from the ground. For example, on Oct 26, the Armenian Defense Ministry released a new report claiming that Azerbaijan lost 6,674 troops, 600 armoured vehicles, 6 rocket launchers, 24 planes, 16 helicopters and 220 UAVs since the start of the conflict.

While the numbers provided by both sides are expectedly overestimated, the evidence demonstrates that Azerbaijani forces in fact suffered notable casualties in their advance on Karabakh. The problem for Yerevan is that Armenian forces experienced losses of similar or even higher scale. Members of Turkish-backed militant groups that remain in Syria and are yet to move to some conflict zone to die for Erdogan’s Neo-Ottoman dream also suffer hard times. At least 78 Turkish-backed militants were killed and over 100 others were injured in a recent series of Russian airstrikes on their training camps and HQs in the Syrian region of Idlib. The main strikes targeted a former air defense base of the Syrian Army near Al-Duvayla. This area is controlled by Turkish-backed militants and the former military base itself is currently a training camp for members of Faylaq ash-Sham. Syrian sources link the increased number of Russian strikes on Turkish proxies in Syria with their deployment to the Nagorno-Karabakh combat zone to support Azerbaijan. Russia sees the increase of the presence of radical militant groups there as an unacceptable scenario. It is likely that this lies behind the recent decrease of reports and evidence on the deployment of Turkish proxies from Syria to Karabakh. The Turkish-Azerbaijani bloc estimate the risks and prefers to avoid the situation of the involvement of some third power in the conflict on the side of the Armenians.

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