the russians may be drawn into something untoward in karabagh

Russian Peacekeepers Officially Deployed In Karabakh Villages Where Armenian-Azerbaijani Clashes Resumed
South Front, Dec 13 2020

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) has confirmed the deployment of peacekeepers in a number of towns in southern Karabakh which were recently attacked by Azerbaijani troops. On Dec 13, the Russian MoD released a map of the disputed region of Karabakh showing the towns, which are located in the vicinity of Hadrut, within the area guarded by peacekeepers. In previous maps, the towns were shown in the Azerbaijani-held part.

Russian Peacekeepers Officially Deployed In Karabakh Villages Where Armenian-Azerbaijani Clashes Resumed
Locations of Russian peacekeepers’ posts is marked with red triangles. Released on Dec 12.

Russian Peacekeepers Officially Deployed In Karabakh Villages Where Armenian-Azerbaijani Clashes Resumed
Locations of Russian peacekeepers’ posts is marked with red triangles. Released on Dec 13.

Azerbaijan launched what it called a “forced anti-terrorist operation” in the towns, Khin Taher, Hin Shen and Mets Shen, on Dec 12. Baku claimed that Armenian forces should withdraw from the towns according to the November 9 peace deal which was brokered by Russia. However, Armenian forces held onto their positions in the towns. Russian peacekeepers called the Azerbaijani attack a “violation” of the ceasefire in Karabakh. Armenian Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunyan, who is paying a working visit to Russia, discussed the ceasefire violation in Karabakh with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu on Dec 13. The situation in Karabakh is now once again stable. The Russian MoD said the ceasefire regime is being held along the entire contact line. The violation, which was the first of its kind, didn’t affect the implementation of the Russian-brokered peace deal that appears to be holding up very well. Such incidents are deemed to happen in any conflict zone.

Azerbaijan Announced ‘Counter-Terrorism Operation’ In South Of Nagorno-Karabakh
South Front, Dec 13 2020

On Dec 13, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry and the State Security Service (SSS) declared that Azerbaijani forces have carried out a “forced anti-terrorist operation” in the vicinity of the town of Hadrut in the south of Nagorno-Karabakh. The statement claimed:

After the signing of a joint ceasefire statement on Nov 10, Armenian armed units remained in the forests north-west of the town of Hadrut. The Armenian side appealed to the command of the Russian peacekeeping contingent to assist in the withdrawal of these units. However, Armenian units did not leave the territory, but, on the contrary, set up combat positions and carried out several acts of sabotage against the Azerbaijani military and civilians, as a result of which four soldiers were killed and two were wounded, as well as one civilian was wounded. We call upon Armenia to ensure the implementation of the points of the joint ceasefire statement in Karabakh. The Republic of Azerbaijan is committed to the implementation of the points reflected in the joint statement of the leaders of the three countries, and continues to closely cooperate with the peacekeeping forces of the Russian Federation to ensure peace in the region.

Contrary to the Azerbaijani version of events, Armenian sources insist that Baku forces deployed reinforcements and attacked positions of Armenian local militia in the countryside of Hadrut. For example, on Dec 12, Azerbaijani troops entered the village Khtsaberd and attacked the village of Khin Taher, which were in the hands of Armenian militia units. On Dec 13, Armenia claimed that Azerbaijan attacked the villages of Hin Shen and Mets Shen. All these villages are located in the de facto encirclement by Azerbaijani troops and Armenian units located there are ‘volunteer battalions’ and ‘local militias’ that have refused to withdraw from the encirclement following the Nov 10 agreement. Their shady status became the source of the current tensions in the region.

Azerbaijan Resumed Offensive Operations In Nagorno-Karabakh. Russian-Turkish Monitoring Center To Be located In Agdam
South Front, Dec 12 2020

UPDATED, Dec 13: Armenian sources claim that while Azerbaijani troops entered Khtsaberd, the village of Khin Taher in fact remained in the hands of the Armenians. Situation in the area remains tense despite the reported involvement of Russian negotiators as a part of the effort to de-escalate the issue. The Armenian Defense Ministry confirms that six of its fighters were injured in the Dec 12 clashes. Yerevan claims that Azerbaijani forces also suffered casualties. According to pro-Armenian sources, Khtsaberd and Khin Taher were already captured by Azerbaijan. Baku accused the Armenians of the escalation.

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev already promised to crush the Armenians with “an iron fist” in the event of further escalation:

I was informed that yesterday some terrorist acts were committed either by Armenian militants or by the remnants of the so-called Armenian army. Of course, this causes concern. I think that Armenia should not try to start over. Two days ago, at the military parade dedicated to our victory, I said that if the Armenian fascism rises again, we will crush it with an iron fist.

Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani side revealed that the joint Turkish-Russian center to monitor the ceasefire will be located in Agdam District. On Dec 12, forces of Azerbaijan resumed offensive operations in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region, where the Armenians and Baku reached a ceasefire just a month ago. According to the Armenian Defense Ministry, Azerbaijani forces have been advancing on the villages of Khtsaberd and Khin Taher. These villages, located south of the Lachin corridor, remained in the hands of the Armenians following the transfer of several districts to Baku as a part of the ceasefire deal. This became the first ceasefire violation since Nov 10, when it entered force. The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the incident in an official statement. It seems that the new escalation is a result of actions of Armenian forces that just refused to withdraw from these two villages in violation of the agreement with Azerbaijan. The aforementioned villages were located in a de-facto enticement by Azerbaijani forces.

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