Footage circulating online appears to show the mutilation of a female Armenian soldier by Azerbaijani troops during fighting this week.
[Warning: This article contains graphic descriptons of violence.]
On Friday, the Armenian Ministry of Defence confirmed that the woman in question was killed during the clashes on 13–14 September along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border.
The footage, ostensibly filmed by an Azerbaijani soldier, shows a number of bodies of Armenian soldiers, including two women.
One of the women has been stripped naked with text written across her breasts and stomach. A stone has been placed in her eye socket and a severed finger in her mouth.
The man filming the scene comments in Azerbaijani: ‘look at the bitch, there are two women. She became a rock.’
The Chief of the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces spoke about the footage during a visit by foreign diplomats to the resort town of Jermuk in the southern Vayots Dzor Province on Friday. The town was subject to Azerbaijani shelling, with Azerbaijani troops taking control of positions near the town during the fighting.
‘They committed atrocities in our combat positions against our servicemembers, including women servicemembers’, Edward Asryan told the diplomats. ‘I can’t find words to describe how they dismembered a female soldier, cut off her legs, and fingers, stripped her naked, this is the ultimate level of cruelty’, he added, promising to show the video to them.
Fighting erupted on the Armenia–Azerbaijan border at around midnight on the night of 12–13 September, as Azerbaijani forces launched strkes and ground assaults into Armenia, targeting military positions and civilian settlements across much of their shared border. Azerbaijan claimed the attacks were a response to Armenian ‘provocations’.
It came to an end after Armenia announced that a ceasefire had been agreed. Yerevan has claimed that the US government ‘played a huge role’ in bringing an end to the fighting. The Azerbaijani side has not officially acknowledged the agreement.
The two-day war differed from many previous battles between the two countries in that it did not involve Nagorno-Karabakh. Unlike in previous clashes, much of the international community, particularly Western countries, also appeared to single out Azerbaijan as being responsible, calling on them to cease their attacks.
As the fighting continued Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to ‘cease the hositilites’ and ‘disengage military forces’, condeming the attacks inside Armenia.
In a phone conversation with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Blinken promised to ‘deal with the issue’ personally and help to normalise the situation.
Another high-ranking US official, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, will also reportedly visit Armenia this weekend to ‘express support’ to the country. She has not announced any other visits in the region.
France has also criticised Azerbaijan. At a meeting of the UN Security Council on Thursday, the French representative urged Azerbaijan to withdraw its troops from Armenian territory and ‘respect Armenia’s territorial integrity’.
Armenia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Paruyr Hovhannisyan told Armenpress that the adoption of a Security Council resolution was currently being discussed.
Armenia’s traditional strategic ally, Russia, remained more muted in their response, urging ‘both sides’ to cease hostilities.
Russia is treaty-bound to assist Armenia militarily in the event of an attack on its territory, both under a bilateral treaty as well as through their membership of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). Despite Armenia’s call for aid, the CSTO sent only a fact-finding mission, which arrived in Armenia on Friday.
The Secretary of the Armenian Security Council, Armen Grigoryan, said the country ‘does not have any more hope’ that the defence mechanisms of the treaty would be activated to help Armenia.
[Read more: Explainer | What happened in Armenia and Azerbaijan on 13–14 September?]