A few months ago, Chief of the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces Eduard Asriyan assured journalists that conscripts from Armenia would not serve in Karabakh, but Armenian citizens could serve in the “separatist defense army” under private contracts, which the Armenian Defense Ministry would not hinder.
Later, Secretary of the Armenian Security Council Armen Grigoryan elaborated that Yerevan would no longer send soldiers to Karabakh, and those of them who had been drafted and sent to Karabakh before the 44-day war would be pulled out after the end of their conscription term, that is, by September 1, 2022.
Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan reiterated this information, and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan even announced in early September that every single Armenian soldier had already been pulled out of Karabakh.
The actual fact is that Armenia has withdrawn only some of its military personnel from Karabakh. The rest continue to serve under contract in the so-called “defense army”, that is, as part of illegal armed groups. And although the latter, according to the trilateral statement of 2020, are to be fully disarmed, they nevertheless continue armed provocations against Azerbaijan.
As we know, in early August, the Azerbaijani Army delivered a powerful strike on a military unit of Armenian armed groups in Aghdara as part of Operation Vengeance, also eliminating the provocateurs’ combat positions on Mount Buzlug in Kalbajar District. As a result, the Azerbaijani Army took control of the strategic height, further limiting the activity of illegal armed groups.
After that, information spread in the Armenian segment of social media that following Azerbaijan’s ultimatum, heavy equipment of the “NKR Defense Army”, including IFVs and artillery systems, was moved from Karabakh to Armenia. At the same time, official Yerevan assured Azerbaijan through the Russian peacekeepers that the “defense army”, without artillery and armored vehicles, would exist for some time in the form of “guards” equipped only with small arms, to be completely dissolved afterwards. This was fully in line with Azerbaijan’s demand that no armed Armenians should remain in the territories currently controlled by the Russian peacekeepers.
In reality, however, the Armenian side has once again refused to comply with the agreements. Although September 1 has come and gone, illegal Armenian military groups are still operating in Karabakh and their numbers, according to informed sources, continue to grow.
It is also alarming that the process of seizing heavy equipment from the illegal Armenian armed groups has been suspended. This means that Armenia has not yet given up its plans to retain military control over a part of Azerbaijan’s territory. That is, after suffering a crushing defeat in the 44-day war and with very limited capabilities at their disposal, Yerevan still seeks to continue its occupation policy.
Hence, the question of what Azerbaijan should do in this situation is becoming more and more topical. And most importantly, how long should Baku tolerate the presence of illegal armed groups and Armenian military personnel in its territory?
Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov gave instructions at a meeting with the army command to firmly suppress any provocations both on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and in the areas under the control of the Russian peacekeeping forces.
It follows that the Azerbaijani Army is ready to carry out a special operation to completely neutralize the illegal Armenian armed groups operating in the sovereign territory of Azerbaijan.
Should Armenia continue to resort to delaying tactics and fail to fulfill its commitments to disarm and remove them from the territories under the control of the separatist regime in Khankendi, Azerbaijan is well-placed and well-equipped to conduct a special operation in the shortest time possible.