Azerbaijani state media has in recent days made increasingly frequent mentions of a possible new military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh, as reports of severe food shortages in Nagorno-Karabakh mount.
The message has been particularly frequently mentioned on Azerbaijani state TV channel AzTV, which has broadcast at least three reports since Sunday focusing on alleged ‘provocations’ by Armenia and potential ‘Revenge’ operations by Azerbaijan’s armed forces against Nagorno-Karabakh.
Azerbaijani government and media have used ‘Revenge’ titles for military operations against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh since the end of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh war.
In one report published early on Monday, AzTV claimed that Azerbaijan’s army could launch a ‘Revenge-3’ operation before the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Brussels on 21 July.
In another segment, the channel claimed that France and Russia had a ‘secret agreement’ regarding the conflict and suggested that Russian troops belonging to the Wagner paramilitary group had been deployed to Armenia.
During the live broadcast of one video, AzTV ran a poll on YouTube, asking the audience if a military operation should be launched against Stepanakert. While the poll is not available anymore, according to a screen grab published on social media, 83% of just under 300 respondents voted in favour of military action.
Caliber, a media outlet affiliated with the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence, on Saturday similarly warned of a ‘Revenge-3’ operation, in an article with the subheading ‘New provocations = fresh graves in Yerablur’, a reference to the Yerablur military cemetery in Armenia’s capital.
The article claimed that Armenian troops remained in Nagorno-Karabakh, contradicting Armenia’s repeated denial of the above, and that two of the four soldiers killed in Nagorno-Karabakh last week were members of the Armenian armed forces.
Caliber substantiated its accusation by citing that the bodies of two soldiers were transferred to Armenia a few days after the 28 June conflict.
Nagorno-Karabakh countered the accusation, stating that both soldiers were members of the Nagorno-Karabakh armed forces. The authorities in Stepanakert stated that one soldier’s parents requested that their son be buried in the Yerablur military cemetery in Yerevan, while the other soldier’s family had left Lachin and settled in Armenia following the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War.
Caliber also accused Nagorno-Karabakh of planning a military ‘provocation’, and stated that such action would make ‘Operation Revenge 3 […] inevitable’.
‘It is time for everyone to understand that under no circumstances will Azerbaijan accept the presence of illegal armed groups on its territory’, stated the report.
AzTV also accused armed forces in Nagorno-Karabakh of violating the ceasefire regime and carrying out ‘fortification work’ on the borders with Aghdam region in southwestern Azerbaijan.
Food shortages and no negotiations
In recent weeks, tensions have mounted between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan, particularly as ongoing obstacles to transport in and out of the region have led to reports of intensifying food shortages in Nagorno-Karabakh.
As the situation has worsened, Nagorno-Karabakh’s population and political leadership have raised concerns regarding ongoing negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
In a meeting in Nagorno-Karabakh’s parliament on 30 June, President Arayik Harutyunyan stated that Nagorno-Karabakh should not accept Azerbaijan’s offers to negotiate in Baku, as Azerbaijan only wanted to discuss ‘integration’ of the region’s Armenian population, which he had attempted to disagree with.
‘Those negotiations do not give results because at the end [the Azerbaijani side] come, say “this is our goal” ’, said Harutyunyan.
Contradicting Harutyunyan’s statement, Nagorno-Karabakh’s former Defence Minister and current opposition figure Samvel Babayan called for direct talks between Baku and Stepanakert.
He stated that they were necessary to build mutual trust, to reach agreement on ‘various simple issues’, and to allow people to ‘live calmly and normally’.
‘After that, let’s go to the second stage: status and other remaining issues’, Babayan told RFE/RL.
Babayan suggested that Baku and Stepanakert could start negotiating with a ‘package’ that would include all of each side’s key demands.
The former State Minister of Nagorno-Karabakh, Ruben Vardanyan, appeared to publicly blame Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan for the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and issues in the negotiations process.
‘The negotiations process is going wrong because of one person who decided to hand over [Nagorno-Karabakh] without any legitimate basis.’, said Vardanyan.
For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.