Death toll rises in Karabakh Fighting
Fierce fighting raged between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces on Monday, sparking bellicose rhetoric from regional power Turkey despite international pleas for a halt in fighting between the enemies.
Yerevan and Baku have been locked in a territorial dispute over the ethnic Armenian region of Nagorny Karabakh for decades, with deadly fighting flaring up last July and in 2016.
The region declared independence from Azerbaijan after a war in the early 1990s that claimed 30,000 lives but it is not recognized by any country – including Armenia – and is still considered part of Azerbaijan by the international community.
On Monday evening, Azerbaijani forces launched a “massive offensive at the Karabakh frontline’s southern and north-eastern sectors,” said Armenia’s defense ministry spokesman Artsrun Hovhannisyan.
Karabakh’s defense ministry said 26 more of its troops were killed late on Monday, bringing the rebels’ total military losses to 84.
The overall death toll rose to 95, including 11 civilian deaths: nine in Azerbaijan and two on the Armenian side.
Azerbaijan has not reported any military casualties, but Armenian separatist officials released footage showing burnt-out armored vehicles and the bloodied and charred remains of soldiers in camouflage it said were Azerbaijani troops.
Fighting between majority-Muslim Azerbaijan and Christian Armenia could embroil regional players, Russia and Turkey.
Russia, which has a military alliance with Armenia and stations a permanent military base there, sells sophisticated weapons worth billions of dollars to both Baku and Yerevan.
Armenia has accused Turkey – which backs Azerbaijan – of meddling in the conflict.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on Monday ordered partial military mobilization and General Mais Barkhudarov vowed to “fight to the last drop of blood in order to completely destroy the enemy and win.”
With each side blaming the other for the flare-up, world leaders have urged calm as fears rise of a full-scale conflict.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia was monitoring the situation closely and that the current priority was to “stop the hostilities, not to deal with who is right and who is wrong.”
But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded Armenia end its “occupation” of Karabakh.