The war in Ukraine continues, but the Ukrainians were able to take back a vast swath of their territory; meanwhile, in Russia, Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization which was met with resistance; in Iran, the Iranian women take on the street to protest against their theocratic government sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini; and lastly, we take look at the violent conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
It’s been 7 months and 5 days since the War of Aggression against Ukraine was started by Russia. Earlier this month the Ukrainian army was able to retake 3,000 km² of their territory in a swift counter-offensive according to Ukrainian chief commander General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi.
After their successful counter-offensive during which Izyum was liberated, mass graves were discovered with the remains of over 440 people. Moreover, Zelenskyy said that in the liberated areas of the Kharkiv region more than 10 torture chambers have been found.
Some of the bodies that were recovered so far showed signs of torture, according to Ukrainian officials. „The chief of the prosecutor’s office for the Kharkiv region told the Reuters news agency that one body had apparently been bound with ropes around the neck and hands, and that other bodies displayed signs of violence.“ (source: Politico)
|Izyum, Ukraine (source: Encyclopedia Britannica)|
|First mentioned in 1571, Izyum has been a city in eastern Ukraine since 1639. The city is located 75 miles (120 km) southeast of Kharkiv on the Donets River and linked with it and Luhansk by rail. Izyum’s Industry includes railroad repair, brick making, brewing, and optical equipment manufacture. |
As of 2012, there live 50,000 people there (due to displacement by the war, said deaths in the discovered mass grave and else, the number may already be much lower).
„The area was the field of numerous battles during the World War II. In January, 1942, the city was liberated by the Red Army forces but later, in May, 1943, the city was attacked again and thousands of Russian soldiers and officers were boxed in by Nazi Germany army. The city was finally liberated in 1943.“ (source: ukrainetrek, city guide)
Last time I have shown you the civilian causalties was on August 28, 2022, here’s the updated list as of September 25, 2022 (source: OCHA reliefweb):
- a total of 5,996 killed (2,334 men, 1,605 women, 157 girls, and 190 boys, as well as 35 children and 1,675 adults whose sex is yet unknown)
Increase: +482 total deaths (+209 men, +154 women, +10 girls, +20 boys)
- a total of 8,848 injured (1,850 men, 1,356 women, 191 girls, and 264 boys, as well as 221 children and 4,966 adults whose sex is yet unknown)
Increase: +1,150 total injuries (+290 men, +207 women, +27 girls, +33 boys)
o In Donetsk and Luhansk regions: 8,382 casualties (3,591 killed and 4,791 injured)
– On Government-controlled territory: 6,657 casualties (3,213 killed and 3,444 injured)
– On territory controlled by Russian armed forces and affiliated armed groups: 1,725 casualties (378 killed and 1,347 injured)
Increase: +896 causalties in Donetsk and Luhansk (+318 killed and +518 injured)
o In other regions of Ukraine (the city of Kyiv, and Cherkasy, Chernihiv, IvanoFrankivsk, Kharkiv, Kherson, Kirovohrad, Kyiv, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Sumy, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk, Khmelnytskyi, Poltava, Rivne, Ternopil, Vinnytsia, Volyn, and Zhytomyr regions), which were under Government control when casualties occurred:
6,462 casualties (2,405 killed and 4,057 injured)
Increase: +736 casualties (+164 killed and +572 injured)
I wrote about the refugees too who fled Ukraine, and as of September 27, 2022 there are 7,533,843 recorded refugees across Europe (+668,218). From last time, when 15.90 % of the Ukrainian population were fleeing, it is an increase of 1.59 % (i.e. now 17.49 %).
More about that on the UNHCR website: https://data.unhcr.org/en/situations/ukraine
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry of Ukraine (United Nations) investigated the regions Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Sumy, where allegations of the most serious rights violations were made against Russian, or Russian-backed forces, early in the war: „Commission chairperson Erik Møse said that investigators visited 27 towns and settlements and interviewed more than 150 victims and witnesses. They also inspected “sites of destruction, graves, places of detention and torture”, as well as remnants of weapons.“
- Unlawful killings: In over 30 settlements carried out in Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy regions by Russian armed forces between February and March.
- Executions: The Russian army carried out executions in 16 towns and settlements where the „common elements“ of the crimes included “visible signs of executions on bodies, such as hands tied behind backs, gunshot wounds to the head, and slit throats”.
- Sexual violence against Ukrainian communities were committed as well, including children: „He said investigators had identified victims of sexual violence aged between four and 82. While some Russian soldiers had used sexual violence as a strategy, the commission „has not established any general pattern to that effect“, Mose added.“ (source: Reuters)
(source: UN News, „War crimes have been committed in Ukraine conflict, top UN human rights inquiry reveals“)
The article also mentions that two instances of ill-treatment of Russian Federation soldiers by Ukrainian soldiers (which fall under human rights violation) that was part of the statement as Commissioner Pablo de Greiff said; the Russian aggressor on the other hand committed significantly larger numbers – as shown above – which amounts to war crimes.
The attention of the commission now turns to the „filtration“ camps in Russian-occupied areas where Ukrainian soldiers were processed. They’ll also investigate claims of forced transfers of people and adoption of Ukrainian children in Russia.
Regarding this investigation, just 15 days ago there was a Join Motion in the European Parliament where Section I outlined the afore mentioned claim:
„[W]hereas the Ukrainian Ombudsman, on 3 September 2022, claimed that more than 200 000 children had already been forcibly taken to the Russian Federation with the intention of making them available for adoption by Russian families and could verify the circumstances of the forced deportation of 7 000 Ukrainian children; whereas the Russian authorities are deliberately separating Ukrainian children from their parents and abducting others from orphanages, other children’s institutions and hospitals before putting them up for adoption inside Russia; whereas this action by the Russian Federation is systematic and large-scale in nature, and includes the eradication of the deportees’ personal records, among other offences[ ]“.
(source: RC-B9-0388/2022: JOINT MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on human rights violations in the context of the forced deportation of Ukrainian civilians to and the forced adoption of Ukrainian children in Russia, European Parliament, Section I)
Author’s Note: As I have argued before, we must continue to support Ukraine by sending it all the military equipment we can provide, as well as humanitarian aid. We should aim to soften the impact of the coming crisis in the Winter, as it has already been done and very likely has to continue until the end of the cold season. We won’t be able to mitigate all the costs, but this also means a test of our democracies and how resilient they are.
Hopefully this one is a mild Winter.
Ukraine makes surprising gains in swift counteroffensive
Calls for war-crimes tribunal grow over Russia’s actions in Izyum
Izyum city, Ukraine (Izium)
Ukraine: Civilian casualties as of 24:00 25 September 2022 [EN/RU/UK]
UNHCR Situations: Ukraine
Investigation chief says Russia committed war crimes in Ukraine
War crimes have been committed in Ukraine conflict, top UN human rights inquiry reveals
RC-B9-0388/2022 – Joint motion for a resolution on human rights violations in the context of the forced deportation of Ukrainian civilians to and the forced adoption of Ukrainian children in Russia
(Written: 29th September, 2022)
You’ve already heard, read or seen it in the news by now that Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization. But what does it mean and how will it affect the war?
What does ‚partial mobilization‘ mean?
The Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) explained it as follows:
„The decree implementing partial mobilization adds what is called “stop loss.” Personnel will remain on active duty involuntarily until the end of partial mobilization. This is a sensible step when militaries face personnel shortages and large-scale military operations, as the personnel retained are already in units and trained. However, in the United States, “stop loss” proved to be controversial when implemented during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Critics called it a “backdoor draft.” The mobilization is limited to former military personnel.
Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu elaborated on the partial mobilization and said that it will be implemented in phases. Before the reservists go into war they receive an additional training of two weeks – which is not nearly enough by US standards.
However, despite NATO training thousands of Ukrainian troops, with some undergoing basic training in United Kingdom and others receiving specialized training at bases throughout Europe, those are still in the minority while most of Ukraine’s territorial army was provided with rudimentary training. On the other hand, the Ukrainian forces are highly motivated and well-equipped with weapons delivered by western countries.
The author argues that the action is similar to the partial mobilization of the US‘ 10 USC §12302: Ready Reserve which was used several times in the past for Desert Storm and for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as for smaller operations. Regarding the actual size of the mobilization – that’s still speculative. Media reports cited the number of 300,000 troops being activated, however, this number didn’t appear in the original speech.
In Russia, bloggers claimed that the troop numbers could be 1 million. In any case, as the author elaborates, Russia’s ability to „induct, train, equip, and move troops to the front is limited“. Consequently, it is going to be more of a stream than a surge.
Bureaucracy is a challenge too:
„Like many bureaucratic tasks in Russia, mobilization is being conducted using quotas levied on districts. The quota system decentralizes and simplifies execution but incentivizes local authorities to prioritize output at any cost. This can create abuses.
In addition to bureaucratic problems, security forces seem to be threatening demonstrators with mobilization, contrary to the announced policy.“
A detail analysis can be found in the article „What Does Russia’s ‘Partial Mobilization’ Mean?„.
How it is going to affect the war is a question of how the mobilization will play out, for that I return once again to the article where they explain what to watch out for:
First, does domestic opposition interfere with the mobilization?
From a military point of view, the key question is whether such opposition significantly reduces the number of personnel available for mobilization.
Can Russian forces hold out until the mobilized personnel start arriving?
Although the front lines seem to have stabilized, the Russian position is fragile. It could crack in the weeks before mobilized personnel arrive.
Can Russia train and equip these forces?
Although the standards do not need to rise to the U.S. expectations, they do need to achieve a minimum level for personnel to be effective.
Finally, does Russian morale maintain at least a minimum level?
Russian morale has not been high, but the Russians keep fighting. A thousand years of history indicate that the Russians can continue fighting in conditions other nations might not tolerate.
|Global Think-Tank Analysis |
(source: University of Pennsylvania, 2019 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report)
|While looking up the CSIS I found out about a paper which analysis think-tanks around the world (p. 71). Overall, it is 274 pages long and the CSIS got a very high rank there. |
I may not have the time to read through it all right now, but maybe I awakened your interest: https://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1018&context=think_tanks
Just one more thing: „Putin aims to put the European populations under enough stress from the cold, inflation, and high energy prices that they demand an end to the war. Survey data indicates that the European populations support Ukraine in its fight for democracy but are ambivalent about providing weapons and becoming involved.“
There isn’t much to add to what has already been said and reported on, but this sentence encapsulates it: „The hastily organised votes across the four occupied provinces are part of Vladimir Putin’s tempestuous response to unexpected reverses on the battlefield.“
(source: the Economist, ukrainecentral.org)
How long an actual referendum takes can be seen in South Korea as well as in the UK.
Note: Since they are sovereign territories of Ukraine, they’d be null and void regardless.
Luhansk, Donetzk, Zaporizhzhya and Kherson (as well as Crimea) belong to Ukraine.
The two examples show just how ludicrous said fake referendums were.
|Agenda for Referendum and Notification of Referendum Day |
(source: Republic of Korea National Election Commission)
|„If the president may submit to a national referendum important policies relating to diplomacy, national defense, unification, and other matters relating to a national destiny or amendments of the Constitution, he/she shall announce the date of referendum and the referendum agenda no later than 18 days before the referendum day. |
Important policies relating to diplomacy, national defense, unification, and other matters relating to a national destiny shall be notified no later than 18 days before the referendum day, and amendments of the Constitution shall be notified for over 20 days from the day the amendments are proposed.“
In the UK, the referendum to leave or remain in the EU started on February 20, 2016:
„David Cameron says the UK’s in/out referendum will be held on 23 June this year – as widely predicted. If he had not got a deal on 18-19 February he would have had to to return to Brussels at the end of February for a special summit or wait until the next scheduled gathering at the start of March.
His cabinet colleagues start to come out in favour or against Britain’s membership as the rival campaigns kick into top gear.“ (source: BBC, EU Referendum Timeline)
In May/April, the Electoral Commission designated the official Leave and Remain campaigns. They got access to £7m spending limit (public funds) and TV broadcasts.
Overall, it took 4 months of preperations, campaigning and much work before that.
In other words: a democratically-held referendum is impossible within the short time frame of four days (23 September – 27 September). Moreover, democracy also means that there are secret ballots, not at gunpoint going from house to house and with the fear of repercussions. Democracy is more than voting for something, it is an entire system.
„Russia announced that its so-called “referendums” would be held across occupied Ukrainian Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhya, and Kherson oblasts on Sept. 23-27, in an attempt to legitimize its occupations of Ukrainian territories. Russia has control only over parts of these regions, while the provincial capital of Zaporizhzhya Oblast remains under Ukrainian control.“ (source: SBU identifies, charges main organizers of sham referendums in Donbas, yahoo!news)
Author’s Note: Whether Vladimir Putin will use it for nuclear escalation (i.e. strategic nuclear weapons) remains to be seen. Retreating is not an option, since it would only set a bad precedent and allow other nuclear armed nations to do the same. At the end of the day, it is about continuing to arm Ukraine with any weaponry we can deliver and strictly coordinate with the democratic Ukrainian government.
What Does Russia’s ‘Partial Mobilization’ Mean?
10 USC §12302. Ready Reserve
2019 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report (PDF, 274 pages)
In fake referendums, occupied parts of Ukraine “vote” to join Russia | The Economist
EU referendum timeline: Countdown to the vote
SBU identifies, charges main organizers of sham referendums in Donbas
(Written: 30th September, 2022)
On September 16, the 22-year old Mahsa Amini was declared dead. Before that she was taken into custody for not adhering to the Islamic dress code. The Iranian morality police claimed that she had a heart attack and fell into a coma. However, her father told the BBC that she was not in bad health.
Excerpt from the BBC Interview:
„My son was with her. Some witnesses told my son she was beaten in the van and in the police station,“ he said „My son begged them not to take her, but he was beaten too, his clothes were ripped off.
„I asked them to show me the body-cameras of the security officers, they told me the cameras were out of battery.“
Iranian authorities have said that Ms Amini had been wearing immodest clothes at the time of her arrest.
Mr Amini, however, said that she always wore a long overcoat.“
In late-September she wanted to start studying microbiology at a university to become a doctor, according to her father. Her 23rd birthday would have been on September 22, 2022.
|Iran Dress Codes including enforcement |
(source: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada)
|Article 638 of the Islamic Penal Code of Iran legislates it as follows: |
„Anyone who explicitly violates any religious taboo in public beside [sic] being punished for the act should also be imprisoned from ten days to two months, or should be flogged
Note – women who appear in public without a proper hijab should be imprisoned from ten days to two months or pay a fine of 50,000 to 500,000 Ryal [Iranian rials (IRR)]
[C$1.58-16]. (Iran 1996, Art. 638)“
When it comes to the hijab, we are already confronted with a problem as explained by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada:
„According to sources, no legal definition is provided for what constitutes a proper hijab (Ceasefire Centre, CSHR and MRG Sept. 2019, 36; US 13 Mar. 2019, 41). In practice, women must cover their hair with a headscarf and their arms and legs with loose clothing in public (Amnesty International 12 Mar. 2019; Australia 7 June 2018, para. 3.82). According to Amnesty International, authorities „have imposed forced hijab on girls as young as seven years old“ (Amnesty International 12 Mar. 2019).“
Article 639 has been used for women who protested to wear a hijiba. It states:
„The following people should be imprisoned from one to ten years, and in the case of
category (a) the property should be confiscated according to decision of the court.
a. anyone who manages a property where activities against public moral take place;
b. anyone who encourages people to violate public moral [sic]. (Iran 1996, Art. 639)“
However, other articles were used by Iran as well against anti-hijab protester:
„[…] Article 134 , which can be used to either increase (Observatory Aug. 2019, 14) or limit sentences imposed (Ceasefire Centre, CSHR and MRG Sept. 2019, 11). According to sources, article 134 was used against a prominent lawyer who defended anti-hijab protesters and was sentenced in 2019 to 33 years in prison and 148 lashes (Observatory Aug. 2019, 13-14; Ceasefire Centre, CSHR and MRG Sept. 2019, 11) to increase the
punishment (Observatory Aug. 2019, 13-14).“
For further reading, I recommend reading the information in form of a PDF
(12 pages, +10 empty) released by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada).
Page 6 covers the social attitudes in Iran and how it affects women in day to day life.
Her death triggered the large protests we currently see. In fact, they are the biggest the Islamic Republic had since 2019 when 200,000 people participated in anti-government protests. Back then 1,500 people were killed by the security forces (Reuters).
„About 1,500 people were killed during less than two weeks of unrest that started on Nov. 15. The toll, provided to Reuters by three Iranian interior ministry officials, included at least 17 teenagers and about 400 women as well as some members of the security forces and police.“
We end this entry with the excerpt of an article written by an Iranian-American woman called Yasmin Vossoughian: „And what’s so remarkable about Iranian women is their power, their will, their intelligence, their achievements in spite of living in a theocracy that aims to oppress them. They are part of every level of society, from teachers, to doctors, to members of Parliament, even while the government tries to suppress them.
These protesters – these women – are fighting for themselves and all of the women around the world who in some way, shape or form, have been treated as less than. And as we watch from afar, they’re showing what needs to be done to catalyze change in the face of oppression. They are our future and the future of Iran“
Author’s Note: I wish the Iranian protesters good luck and success! May they emerge victorious against their brutal oppressors.
Iran: Mahsa Amini’s father accuses authorities of a cover-up
Iran Dress Codes including enforcement (PDF, 12 pages)
Timeline: Iranian Unrest Leading up to Mahsa Amini’s Death in Police Custody
Special Report: Iran’s leader ordered crackdown on unrest – ‚Do whatever it takes to end it‘
Why Mahsa Amini’s death could be a turning point for women in Iran
(Written: 1st October, 2022)
The ongoing conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is the longest-running in post-Soviet Eurasia. Here I present the history of the conflict from its beginning in 1988 to 2022.
In order to understand the full scope of the conflict, we have to travel back in time.
The Russian Empire acquired the region Nagorno-Karabakh.
Under Soviet rule, it was established as an „Armenian-majority autonomous oblast of the Azerbaijan S.S.R. Detached from the Armenian S.S.R. to the west by the Karabakh Range“.
Thus it became a minority enclave within Azerbaijan.
Nagorno-Karabakh developed quietly throughout decades of Soviet rule.
Ethnic Armenians began to advocate for their oblast to be transferred to Armenian jurisdiction – both the Azerbaijan S.S.R. and the Soviet government opposed it.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 Azerbaijan and Armenia gained their independence, ethnic tensions intensified and they went to war over the enclave. A cease-fire agreement was reached in 1994, the negotiations were guided by Russia and a committe informally known as the Minsk Group. It was periodically violated but upheld for the most part.
Self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabahk declared its independence, internationally not recognized.
Landmark agreement signed between Nagorno-Karabahk born Armenian president Serzh Sarkisyan and Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev „pledging to intensify efforts toward a resolution of the conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region“.
In these years episodic clashed occurred between the two countries, despite ccasional gestures of rapprochement.
New government in Armenia sparks hope for renewed negotiations regarding Nagorno-Karabahk.
Clashes in July after a breakdown in diplomacy. Albeit short, Russia – the guarantor of American security – conducted unilateral military drills near the Caucaus only days after the cease-fire. Soon afterwards, Turkey held joint military exercises with Azerbaijan.
As a consequence, on September 27 both sides were better prepared than in July and since Azerbaijan was firmly supported by Turkey, they felt emboldened. The resulting conflict quickly escalated to the worst fighting since the early 1990s.
The casualties where high due to the brutal ground war where cluster munitions and ballistic missiles had been used. Drones played a role as well by capturing footage that was used to fuel the information war on social media.
On November 9, Russia brokered a cease-fire deal after the Armenian forces were devastated by the war: „The deal required Armenia to relinquish its military control over Nagorno-Karabakh and allowed Russian peacekeepers to guard the region for five years. The deal also guaranteed that Xankändi (Stepanakert) would retain access to Armenia through the Lachin Corridor mountain pass.“
More about Nagorno-Karabahk here: https://www.britannica.com/place/Nagorno-Karabakh
The Wars in Detail
Now we dive deeper into this bloody conflict, for this I use the information provided by the International Crisis Group. Their visual explainer is embetted as a link at the end of this section.
After the fighting ended, Armenia controlled Nagorno-Karabakh, and 7 neighbouring districts where either wholly or partially controlled. It wasn’t limited to territorial changes:
Azerbaijanis living in Armenia and the now-controlled territories fled Armenia, while Armenians left their homes in Azerbaijan. In total: over one million fled as a result.
|Human Rights Watch World Report 1994 – Azerbaijan|
|Armenians in Azerbaijan|
„Because of the ongoing war in Nagorno Karabakh, Armenians remaining in Azerbaijan – mostly people in mixed marriages – faced the danger of being seized hostage, having their apartments confiscated and other forms of persecution. In February the Gray Wolves, a Turkish-oriented paramilitary group, repeatedly published lists of twenty-two Armenians who had changed their last names and national identity as indicated on Soviet-era passports, in order to escape persecution.“
|The Armenian Offensive|
„The towns‘ capture [Kelbajar, Agdam, Fizuli, Goradiz, and Jebrail] came at staggering human costs, creating 250,000 new Azerbaijani refugees. Civilians fled Kelbajar in April through high mountains still covered with snow. Refugees claimed that hundreds of people froze to death attempting to flee. Following the attacks on Fizuli, Goradiz and Jebrail, about 150,000 refugees flocked toward the Iranian border in August, where the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other relief organizations set up refugee camps. Hundreds of civilians were either killed or wounded in this offensive.“
During this time, irregular deadly instances occurred which involved attack drones and heavy weaponry on the front lines as well as activities of special operations forces. They were a reminder of the ever-present risk of a reignation of the war.
In April 2016, hundreds were killed in a four-day intense fighting period at the line of separation.
|The four-day war in Nagorno-Karabakh|
(source: Centre for Eastern Studies)
|The analysis by the institution explains why it is difficult to determine the amount of causalties: „The exact number of casualties is unknown; both sides have admitted to at least 60 dead soldiers and several civilians, and it is possible that the figures have been under-reported. Baku, Yerevan and Stepanakert have also been disseminating war propaganda and deliberate misinformation campaigns, so it is difficult to verify many of the reported facts (such as the alleged murder of Armenian civilians in the village of Talysh).“|
The end of this intense fighting was as sudden as its beginning. On April 5, the parties to the conflict stated that hostilities were suspended – first the Karabakh separatists, then Armenia, and lastly Azerbaijan.
Furthermore, it is argued that Azerbaijan was most likely responsible for the escalation:
„[…] as for many years it has been promising to liberate the territories occupied by the Armenians (i.e. the area of Nagorno-Karabakh and the territories adjacent to it, which Armenians took over during the war in 1991-94) if it failed to achieve anything in the peace negotiations.“ And the potential role of Russia: „Nevertheless it is possible that Azerbaijan did not act alone, and that Russia may have at least been aware of Baku’s intentions. In recent years, Russia has reactivated its policy in the Caucasus, where its main objective is to strengthen its dominance in the region. By changing the status quo and the format of the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh (including by marginalising the OSCE’s Minsk Group), and imposing a resolution on the warring parties that only Russia could guarantee (primarily involving the introduction of Russian peacekeeping forces in the conflict zone), Russia could achieve this aim.“
27 September 2020 – 10 November 2020
A renewed flare-up of the war which lasted for six weeks.
Over 7,000 military and 170 civilians were killed, many more were wounded.
The Russian Federation brokered a ceasefire; Nagorno-Karabakh and its seven districts adjacent to it where now under full control of Azerbaijan again. A Russian peacekeeping force patrols the rest, self-proclaimed authorities still govern them though.
|Nagorno-Karabakh: Armenia’s surrender, Russia’s success|
(source: Centre for Eastern Studies)
|After the truce was reached, Russia tasked its 15th Mechanised Brigade with carrying out peacekeeping activities. They were deployed along the demarcation line. |
For Russia, this was a success since it was able to regain influence over the region:
„Moscow has strengthened its presence in the South Caucasus region; its peacekeepers are to be stationed on the spot for five years, with the possibility of extending their stay for further five-year periods (with the consent of the warring parties). The deployment of the Russian contingent and its supervision of the transport links which are important to both sides (between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, and between Azerbaijan ‚proper‘ and Nakhchivan) will allow Moscow to keep both countries within its zone of influence.“
Armenia, on the other hand, perceived the agreement as a humiliation. This quickly lead to escalations domestically: „At night, upon the news of the agreement, a crowd gathered on the streets of Yerevan and broke into the prime minister’s office (Pashinyan’s office was demolished). The speaker of parliament, Ararat Mirzoyan, was badly beaten. In the coming days and weeks, very serious internal disturbances are highly probable, and Pashinyan himself may lose power (a situation made more likely because the Kremlin does not trust him). At this stage Armenian society is not ready to accept that the truce just concluded is the lesser of two evils – the war has been stopped, and the presence of Armenians in a part of Nagorno-Karabakh, including Stepanakert, has been guaranteed.“
As the history of the conflict has shown, this wouldn’t last for long. Especially since the relocation of the frontlines made the region more volatile: opposing military positions were hundreds of metres apart before the war, after the war only 30-100 metres.
Moreover, the military positions moved closer to civilian settlements too.
The main roads are patrolled by the Russian peacekeeping force, and their outposts are deployed near Armenian-populated areas of the conflict zone and and the main traffic artery between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh which includes the Lachin corridor (see map above). 20 km away from the frontline, in Azerbaijani territory, the joint Russian-Turkish monitoring centre was established.
Since the ceasefire, there were at least 243 casualties: 74 combatants and 36 non-combatants were killed, 59 combatants and 74 non-combatants wounded.
For further information, read „The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: A Visual Explainer„.
Their interactive maps are worth checking out, and there’s more information that I couldn’t fit in this section of my entry.
13 September 2022 – 14 September 2022
In the 48 hours of fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia, 207 Armenian and 80 Azerbaijani soldiers were killed. The fighting erupted at several spots along Armenia’s eastern border with Azerbaijan, then spilling into key towns of Armenia. Unlike in previous years, the hostilities covered a much larger territory. The Azerbaijan army took control of an area measuring 10 km² inside Armenia. Four civilians were killed and dozens were wounded by the shelling, according to Yerevan. 2,700 civilians had to be evacuated.
„In Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, residents shaken by the latest burst of violence braced themselves for what could be coming. Addressing the UN General Assembly on 22 September, Prime Minister Pashinyan warned that the threat of a new offensive remained “very high”. He expressed concern that “Azerbaijan intends to occupy more territories of Armenia”. In Yerevan, rescue workers began the grim task of checking whether bomb shelters were ready for use. Azerbaijan, too, is warning of the ceasefire’s fragility and stressing the need to reach a final peace deal. “For stability to be durable, we need to agree”, Azerbaijan’s foreign minister, Jeyhun Bayramov, told Crisis Group on 22 September.“ (source: Upholding the Ceasefire between Azerbaijan and Armenia, International Crisis Group)
As for the reasons, there are four possibilities:
1. Azerbaijan takes advantage of the Ukrainian-Russian War
Moscow and the co-chairs of the OSCE Paris and Washington are distracted by the war.
The aim, in this case, is to gain a strategic advantage by conquering more territory.
2. Azerbaijan may be in a hurry
With the Turkish elections coming up (June 2023), President Aliyev may seek a peace accord in the next two to three months. A pro-government analyst in Baku claims that while any Turkish government supports Azerbaijan, a weakened Erdoğan can’t protect Azerbaijan’s interests against Russia.
3. Securing a special land corridor
Currently policed by the Russian border guards, the corridor leads through Armenia to the Azerbaijan exclave Nakhchivan. On the 31 August Summit, the diplomatic solution failed.
Additionally, on 15 September Armenia’s UN envoy warned of an Azerbaijani offensive.
4. Regain control of 8 villages
Lastly, it could be about the eight Armenian controlled villages inside the UN-recognized Azerbaijan border. Armenia also has an exclave in Azerbaijan, known as Artvashen and controlled by Baku. A local expert told Crisis Group that the newly conquered Armenian territories could serve as a bargaining chip to get the exclaves back.
Armenia would want international guarantees for any peace agreement, and here the EU may play the key role: „Brussels will likely be part of the answer. With the U.S. and France at loggerheads with Russia over Ukraine, the European Union has emerged as the diplomatic lead among the Western actors. The EU has brought the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders together four times since the November 2020 ceasefire, and shows every sign of continuing its efforts. Already, it has called for all forces to return to positions held prior to the 13 September escalation, and European Council President Charles Michel has promised that the bloc is committed to its role as “an honest broker”. But while the parties generally have welcomed these efforts, some observers wonder whether Brussels has enough influence over Baku to be effective.“ The authors of the article argue that the four main mediators are still needed, that means Russia, the EU, France and the US.
The author claims that it will be vital to convey a sense of urgency, because the frequency of fighting in 2022 could too easily lead to a flare up of the 30-year old conflict.
The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: A Visual Explainer
Human Rights Watch World Report 1994 – Azerbaijan
The four-day war in Nagorno-Karabakh
Nagorno-Karabakh: Armenia’s surrender, Russia’s success
Upholding the Ceasefire between Azerbaijan and Armenia