Armenia Sends Soldiers Back into Karabakh
Such movements observed in February this year, could complicate implementing the trilateral declarations among Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia, thanks to which the military hostilities of the 2020 Second Karabakh War were ended.
A destroyed Armenian truck sits in Fuzuli, Azerbaijan, on January 22, 2021. Photo: Orkhan Azim
Remarkable video footage has come out of Armenia confirming that the military does not appear to be entirely under civilian control. Such movements observed in February this year, could complicate implementing the trilateral declarations among Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia, thanks to which the military hostilities of the 2020 Second Karabakh War were ended. Armenian troops have evacuated the formerly occupied territories, which are now returned to Azerbaijan. Yet there still appear to be influential circles inside the Armenian leadership that remain unreconciled to the capitulation.
The independent YouTube report posted Feb. 26 2021 by Patrick Lancaster contains footage and primary-source interviews with protesters outside the Armenian defence ministry building. The protesters are parents and grandparents of soldiers, objecting to the defence ministry’s plans to send their sons and grandsons back into Azerbaijan's de-occupied territories.
One protester explained (in Russian): "My grandson ... is here in Armenia. He participated in the war, then came [home for] holidays. We are told [by the press and political leaders] it was not possible to [go] back to Karabakh [because of the terms of the ceasefire agreement with Azerbaijan]. But now they want to send soldiers there secretly."
Roughly translated screenshot from Patrick Landcaster's YouTube video (1:45).
This is not the first instance of attempts to infiltrate Armenian soldiers into the de-occupied territories since the end of military hostilities. In late November 2020, Azerbaijani troops found more than 60 armed Armenians in Karabakh who had arrived from Armenia. President Ilham Aliyev explained: For some time, the Azerbaijani servicemen... tried to help these people and send them back. But it turned out that this was not the case. It turned out that it was a subversion group that carried out attacks on our military personnel and civilians.
For some time, the Azerbaijani servicemen... tried to help these people and send them back. But it turned out that this was not the case. It turned out that it was a subversion group that carried out attacks on our military personnel and civilians.
Azerbaijani soldiers were attacked three times in November and December 2020, all in Khojavend district, after the November 10 ceasefire agreement. Several Armenian intruders were killed in the counter-terrorist operation.
Roughly translated screenshot from Patrick Landcaster's YouTube video (8:23).
Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov detailed such infiltration in a letter to the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres. The letter also mentioned Armenia’s refusal to furnish maps and information about the massive contamination of Azerbaijan with mines and other explosive devices that it had laid in the recently liberated territories. This denial would appear to violate customary international humanitarian law.
The Armenian protestors do not oppose military service per se. They object to their loved ones being sent surreptitiously back into the de-occupied areas in violation of the ceasefire accord (sometimes called the "capitulation agreement"). This is understandable given the ignominious defeat of Armenian forces in the recently concluded war. The chances of survival for Armenian soldiers sent back into the territories, in violation of the capitulation agreement, is about fifty-fifty.
Roughly translated screenshot from Patrick Landcaster's YouTube video (11:46).
Many Armenian soldiers lost their lives in the Second Karabakh War. The Yerevan leadership refused three opportunities to halt the fighting by violating three ceasefires before finally accepting the one offered on 9-10 November 2020. The Armenian media kept the army’s catastrophic losses of manpower, weapons systems and territory from the public during the war, continuing to promise victory until the end. Such falsifications are now obvious in Armenia; still, there are those who blame Russia or the United States.
The Armenian military must be fully subordinated to civilian control, lest another tragedy unfold. As Andrei Kortunov, the Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council has noted, “The liberal democratic paradigm is Armenia’s best chance for a future[, and o]bsessive ideas of ... taking back lands lost last year must become a thing of the past.”
It appears that an ultimately unsuccessful military coup may have been underway against Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan at the time these allegations emerged. However, a Russian statement that Moscow’s soldiers in Yerevan must remain in their barracks, indicates a veto from the Kremlin against any such direct intervention if it had indeed been planned by the Armenian military.