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Live updates | Stepanakert surrenders amidst Azerbaijani assault

20 September 2023
Stepanakert on 19 September 2023. Photo: Siranush Sargsyan.

Azerbaijani armed forces have continued their offensive on Nagorno-Karabakh in an apparent attempt to take control of the territory.

Read a summary of Tuesday’s events: Azerbaijan demands complete surrender of Nagorno-Karabakh as it launches massive offensive 

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.

20 Sep 2023, 22:58

We are closing our live updates for today. You can read a summary of today’s events here.

20 Sep 2023, 22:52

Aliyev says Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh can now ‘breathe easy’

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has celebrated his country’s victory in a televised speech, stating that Azerbaijan had restored its sovereignty.

‘The information given to us today by our international partners was that the illegal Armenian militants are ready to accept our terms. I delivered my terms to the US Secretary of State yesterday’, Aliyev said.

‘Those who refused to come to meet with us now agreed to come to the place we told them, the city of Yevlakh.’

He also boasted of the military equipment Azerbaijan had destroyed.

‘Most of the army of Armenia, which it did not withdraw from the territory of Azerbaijan, was destroyed’, he said.

He said also said that the Armenian population on Nagorno-Karabakh can now ‘breathe easy’,

‘Despite all the crimes, we did not blame the Armenian people for these crimes’, he said. 

‘We have accused elements of the criminal regime, and we will bring them to justice. We did not blame the Armenian people for the Khojaly genocide, the destruction of our cities, villages, and the digging of graves. We have accused elements of the criminal regime, the leaders. We hold them accountable. Some have already received their deserved punishment, and others still will.’

‘The Armenian people know that my word is my word.’

Aliyev also praised Armenia for not intervening.

‘Armenia unexpectedly showed political competence. We see it. The events that happened today and yesterday will positively impact the peace process between Azerbaijan and Armenia. The position of Armenia yesterday and today is encouraging’, he said.

20 Sep 2023, 20:25

Zakharova again blames Armenia 

While paying tribute to the Russian peacekeepers who died, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova again blamed Armenia for what happened.

20 Sep 2023, 20:22

Armenian opposition announces national committee

Ishkhan Saghatelyan from the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation announced at the opposition protest in Yerevan that the opposition was creating a national committee. 

He said they had developed an action plan to ensure the removal of the government. This would include the opposition starting impeachment proceedings in Parliament.

20 Sep 2023, 20:11

Several Russian peacekeepers killed

According to the Russian Ministry of Defence, several Russian peacekeepers were killed during the war after one of their vehicles came under fire. They stated that they did not know who opened fire and that Russian and Azerbaijani investigators were on the scene.

20 Sep 2023, 18:56

Charles Michel calls on Aliyev to ensure ‘safe, dignified treatment of Karabakh Armenians’

EU Council President Charles Michel has held a phone conversation with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.

20 Sep 2023, 18:01

Azerbaijan ‘ready to provide stability and security in a short period’

Azerbaijani presidential advisor Hikmat Hajiyev has held a press briefing on the proposed integration process of Nagorno-Karabakh.

He said Azerbaijan was ready for tomorrow’s ‘initial contact’ in Yevlakh. 

‘Broader discussions will be held within the framework of the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan’, he said. 

‘Azerbaijan once again declares that it is ready for a smooth reintegration process. We are ready to respond to the humanitarian demands of the population. We are ready to provide stability and security in a short period.’

Key points from Hajiyev’s briefing:

  • Social programmes will be implemented for Armenian residents in Stepanakert.
  • Azerbaijani government structures will be restored in Stepanakert.
  • Armenians will hand over their weapons to prepared stations.
  • Azerbaijan ‘committed’ to the peace process with Armenia.
  • A UN Security Council meeting is ‘unnecessary’ and would not ‘bring any benefit to the peace process’.

02 Dec 2023, 16:58

Reports of thousands gathering at Stepanakert airport

There have been widespread reports that thousands of people have gathered at Stepanakert airport.

Tigran Grigoryan, a Yerevan-based political analyst from Nagorno-Karabakh, said they were stuck without food or water.

Marut Vanyan, a journalist from Nagorno-Karabakh, confirmed this, stating that his relatives at the airport had given similar information. 

Grigor Atanesian, a BBC World Service journalist, said that the ‘latest unconfirmed reports saying no evacuation will be allowed’.

The Armenian Migration Service said they were currently meeting to discuss the possibility of organising the entry of residents of Nagorno-Karabakh into Armenia.

20 Sep 2023, 15:59

Pashinyan: the attack was aimed at involving Armenia in war

Speaking in a live address, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan noted that Armenia was mentioned in the text of the ceasefire agreement despite not having been a part of the relevant discussions, and suggested that this supported his theory that the attack had been an attempt to push Armenia into conflict. 

‘We have repeatedly said that since August 2021, the Republic of Armenia does not have an army in Nagorno-Karabakh’, said Pashinyan. ‘My reaction is that mentioning Armenia in a text that has nothing to do with Armenia justifies the hypothesis I mentioned yesterday: that one of the goals of the attack against Nagorno-Karabakh was to involve Armenia in military operations [...] its main target was the independence and sovereignty of Armenia.

He also suggested that as Russian peacekeepers had made the offer, they had ‘fully and without reservations’ accepted the obligation to provide Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenians with safety and the ability ‘to live on their land’.

20 Sep 2023, 13:55

Pashinyan: Military operations have reduced, but ‘not to zero’

Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan said in a live address to the public that while the latest information suggested that the intensity of military operations in Nagorno-Karabakh had decreased sharply, he ‘[could] not say that it has been reduced to zero’. 

‘We hope that the military escalation will not continue’, said Pashinyan. ‘Stability and cessation of hostilities are even more important in these conditions.’

A number of outlets and journalists report that shelling has continued within Nagorno-Karabakh, despite the agreement on the cessation of hostilities from 13:00.

02 Dec 2023, 16:58

From Az MoD media briefing now: 

The Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence has made a statement confirming the surrender.

According to them:

  1. The armed forces of Nagorno-Karabakh agrees to disband.
  2. All weapons and heavy equipment will be handed over.
  3. This will occur in coordination with the Russian peacekeeping contingent

In their statement, they also spoke of the number of combat positions they had taken control of and equipment captured.

They also told the public not to donate to calls for aid for the army as ‘the provision of units is at a high level.’

20 Sep 2023, 12:56

Nagorno Karabakh authorities surrender

The government of Nagorno-Karabakh has announced they have accepted a ceasefire proposal by the Russian peacekeeping contingent.

According to the authorities in Nagorno-Karabaklh, the agreement includes:

  • The withdrawal of any armed forces of the Republic of Armenia present.
  • The ‘disbandment and complete disarmament’ of the armed forces of Nagorno-Karabakh
  • Issues related to the integration of the region into Azerbaijan and the rights and security of its Armenian population ‘within the framework of the Constitution of Azerbaijan’ will be discussed at a meeting in the central Azerbaijani city of Yevlakh tomorrow, and ‘during subsequent meetings’.

Azerbaijan has scheduled a press briefing at 13:00.

20 Sep 2023, 12:00

Amaras Monastery reportedly captured

The Caspian Defence Studies Institute, citing Armenian and Azerbaijani sources, reports that the 4th century Amaras monastery, located near the village of Sos in Martuni (Khojavand) province, has come under the control of the Azerbaijani army.

The monastery is of great religious and cultural significance to Armenians, as it is the site of the first Armenian-language school, established in the 5th century. Azerbaijani officials have consistently denied its Armenian heritage, maintaining that it was built by Caucasus Albanians.

Amaras Monastery. Photo: Armen Manukov/Wikimedia Commons

20 Sep 2023, 11:50

More than 20 Azerbaijani soldiers reportedly killed

Citing municipal authorities and the families of the deceased, independent Azerbaijani journalist Habib Muntazir reports that more than 20 Azerbaijani military personnel have been killed so far in the Azerbaijani attack on Nagorno-Karabakh. While Muntazir reports that government agencies have confirmed the identities of 15 of the dead, Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defence has not published any official information about the dead and wounded.

20 Sep 2023, 11:40

Power reportedly out throughout Nagorno-Karabakh

At around 04:00, the office of the Human Rights Defender of Nagorno-Karabakh announced that the electricity supply had been cut to the entire population after an Azerbaijani strike on electrical infrastructure in Martakert (Aghdara) region.

‘The deliberate targeting of the vital infrastructure, which leads to more suffering and deprivations among the civilian population, is yet another terrorist act by Azerbaijan’, they said.

20 Sep 2023, 11:33

Nagorno-Karabakh President: government to take ‘appropriate steps’ to ensure safety of the population 

Nagorno-Karabakh’s President, Samvel Shahramanian, said the government would be forced to take ‘appropriate steps’ to ensure the physical safety of the population as a priority, in an extended session of the Security Council. 

He said such steps would be necessary because of the ‘inadequate’ response from the international community, who he said had taken no practical steps to resolve the situation.

20 Sep 2023, 11:08

Mayor of Martuni killed

The mayor of Martuni (Khojavand), Aznavour Saghyan, was reportedly killed overnight.

Nagorno-Karabakh’s human rights defender, Gegham Stepanyan confirmed the news in a conversation with RFE/RL.

20 Sep 2023, 10:48

Ambulance reportedly attacked

The office of the Human Rights Defender of Nagorno-Karabakh has reported that an ambulance sent to Martakert (Aghdara) to retrieve eight bodies came under fire from Azerbaijani troops overnight. They reported that the driver had been injured in the attack.

Azerbaijan denied the claim, calling it an attempt to ‘form a false opinion in the international community’.

20 Sep 2023, 10:33

‘Several villages already occupied’

Tigran Grigoryan, a Yerevan-based political analyst who is from Nagorno-Karabakh, has said that Azerbaijani forces had already taken control of a number of villages.

He also said that the shelling of Stepanakert was more intensive than at any point during the 2020 Second Nagorno-Karabakh War.

20 Sep 2023, 10:17

Fighting continues

Fighting continued overnight and into this morning. 

The Azerbaijani Defence Ministry said the offensive was ‘successfully ongoing’, and continued to post footage purportedly of drone strikes on positions in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Nagorno-Karabakh Defence Army also said that fighting continued ‘with varying intensity along the contact line’. They added that they continued to resist the Azerbaijani advance.

20 Sep 2023, 09:30

Key events from yesterday:

  • Azerbaijani forces launched a massive assault on Nagorno-Karabakh. Explosions and gunfire were heard in Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital of Stepanakert, with the authorities there reporting attacks along the entire line of contact.
  • Azerbaijan said they intended to ‘restore constitutional order’, demanding the complete surrender and dissolution of the government in Stepanakert.
  • Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Armenian armed forces were not involved in the fighting and warned against any ‘unplanned, drastic action’. 
  • Several Western countries, including the US, Germany, and France, as well as the European Union, condemned Azerbaijan’s attack and called on them to immediately cease its offensive.
  • Officials in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh warned that Azerbaijan was attempting to ethnically cleanse Nagorno-Karabakh, warnings echoed by some Western officials and human rights groups.
  • Russia has called for restraint from both sides, while the Russian peacekeeping mission in Nagorno-Karabakh has not intervened.

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