Nikol Pashinyan’s words and actions after being elected Prime Minister in 2018 significantly strained relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia. What the Prime Minister of Armenia said in May 2018 about the involvement of the “NKR” in the conflict resolution process, the demonstrative dancing in Shusha in May 2019, “Karabakh is Armenia” declared in Khankendi in August 2019, Armenian Defense Minister David Tonoyan’s statement about a “new war for new territories” in the same month escalated the tension between the two countries. The Tovuz clashes of July 2020 aggravated the already tense relations. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the escalation in Tovuz was Armenia’s doing. The killing of Major General Polad Hashimov in these clashes also stirred a strong wave of anger among the public. People all around the country, including Baku, demanded that the government take military action, and this demand did not go unanswered. Although the Azerbaijani government cites the September 27 provocation as the cause of the war, the preparations for the war began in August.
Commencement of hostilities
Azerbaijan officially cites the military provocation of the Armenian army in the morning of September 27 as the cause behind the commencement of hostilities. The first press release of the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense issued at 7:30 a.m. said: “On September 27, around 6:00 a.m., the armed forces of Armenia, committing large-scale provocations, subjected to intensive shelling from large-caliber weapons, mortars, and artillery mounts of various calibers the positions of the Azerbaijan Army along the entire length of the front and our human settlements located in the front line zone. There are killed and wounded among the civilian population as a result of the intensive enemy shelling of the village of Gapanli of Tartar District, the villages of Chiragli and Orta Gervend of Agdam District, the villages of Alkhanli and Shukurbeyli of Fizuli District, and the village of Jojug Marjanli of Jabrayil District. Serious damage has been caused to civilian infrastructure. Information on casualties and wounded among the civilian population and military personnel is being specified. The forward units of the Azerbaijan Army are taking retaliatory measures to suppress this provocation of the enemy and to ensure the safety of the civilian population living near the line of confrontation.” The second press release of the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan at 9:10 a.m. announced the beginning of the war: “The command of the Azerbaijan Army has decided to launch a counteroffensive operation of our troops along the entire front to suppress the combat activity of the armed forces of Armenia and ensure the safety of the civilian population.” At 11:00 a.m. on September 27, the leader of the Nagorno-Karabakh separatists, Arayik Harutyunyan, called an emergency parliament meeting and declared martial law in the “republic”. Harutyunyan said at a briefing at the information headquarters in Khankendi that mobilization had begun and the first groups had already been dispatched to the front line. On the same day, the Armenian Diaspora began to gather an army of 10,000 volunteers. The Azerbaijani army mainly conducted the offensive in two directions. The troops in the north were led by the Commander of the 1st Army Corps, Major General Hikmet Hasanov, and the troops in the south consisted of two groups led by Major General Hikmet Mirzayev and Major General Mais Barkhudarov. The President’s press service referred to the southern troops as the Joint Corps. The main direction of attack was Jabrayil-Fuzuli. These troops were under the general command of Colonel General Karam Mustafayev. The terrain here is less mountainous and more suitable for an offensive than in the north, and this played a key role. According to Russian military expert Mikhail Khodaryonok, Azerbaijan carefully planned and prepared the offensive operation. Armenian media claimed that three high-ranking Turkish generals were planning and conducting the campaign at their headquarters in Baku, but this claim was never substantiated. Retired US Army officer Edward J. Erickson does not believe that the operation was planned by Turkish officers either: “It is very likely that the Azerbaijani general staff received advice in real time from the Turks, but it is unlikely that Turkish generals were actually in command of the campaign.
On the first day of the attack, the Azerbaijani army was able to breach the front line in one or two directions. Around 4:30 p.m., the Azerbaijani army entered the villages of Boyuk Marjanli and Nuzgar in the Jabrayil direction. At the same time, 4 villages of Fizuli District were liberated from occupation. The press release of the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense was immediately refuted by the Ministries of Defense of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. “The statement of the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense on the return of control over six villages in the Karabakh conflict zone is false,” the official statement said. Artsrun Hovhannisyan, spokesman for the Armenian Ministry of Defense, mocked the statement of the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense about the liberation of six villages on his Facebook page: “Six villages… take it up a notch, say it’s 10 cities. Damn it, you haven’t even learned how to photoshop Fizuli properly.”
Although an official announcement about the liberation of the villages was made, no video footage of them was released. The line of defense was breached in one direction on the first day, but in the following days the army faced serious difficulties in other directions. For several days, Azerbaijan was unable to turn the tide, and the fighting was focused on the areas along the line of contact. Heavily bombed from air and suffering severe losses, the Armenian army still continued to resist. On the second day of the war, Colonel Karen Babayan, the commander of the 18th motorized rifle artillery division of the Armenian army stationed in Jabrayil District, was killed. Nevertheless, resistance continued. In particular, foreign military experts were of the opinion that the war would end in a few days and that the Azerbaijani attack would not achieve its goal at all. Khodaryonok says, “The Azerbaijani army did not achieve a single objective in 5 days. Ilham Aliyev has missed the ‘golden time’. As there are no significant results such as the capture of Fizuli and Aghdara, I believe that the offensive has suffered a setback, it has come to a halt, and if this does not change in the next 2 or 3 days, the war will end.” However, one day after this opinion was voiced, the Azerbaijani army was able to break through both in the north, and a breakthrough in the south followed on the day after that. Around 10:31 p.m. on October 3, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev shared the news of the breakthrough in the Jabrayil direction on Twitter: “Today Azerbaijan’s Army has liberated Talish village of Terter district, Mehdili, Chaxirli, Ashagi Maralyan, Sheybey and Guyjag of Jabrayil district, and Ashagi Abdurrahmanli of Fizuli district. Karabakh is Azerbaijan!” Thus, cutting through the front line along the Araz, the Azerbaijani army began to advance towards the city of Jabrayil located 20 km from the line of contact.
Panic and desertion in the Armenian army
The breach of the front line in the Jabrayil direction and heavy losses discouraged the Armenians. A serious disagreement between the army and the government was already apparent on the third day of the war. On September 30, Armenian Chief of General Staff Onik Gasparyan called on the government to end the war as soon as possible: “On the fourth day of the war, at a meeting of the Security Council, I reported our losses and presented an assessment of the situation by the Armed Forces, pointing out that action must be taken within two or three days to end the war, otherwise, in the event of such intense hostilities, our resources will run out in a short time, and our situation will be increasingly unfavorable for the negotiation process.” Regarding this statement, the office of the Security Council presented some excerpts from the transcript of Onik Gasparyan’s report dated September 30, 2021, in which he says: “Mr. Prime Minister, in fact, the situation has not changed tactically, that is, the enemy has made no progress. In any case, the troops are doing their job, in the morning we conducted a small counterattack in the Jabrayil direction, and it was a success. This is the current situation, we continue to carry out our tasks and we will carry them out to the end.” This confrontation between the government and the army progressed as the war continued. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan blamed the advance of the Azerbaijani army in Jabrayil District on treason. “A few days ago, I was informed that some people appeared on the front line and were convincing the soldiers that Nikol had sold the land,” Pashinyan said. “The soldiers were told that the war was fixed, that they had been brought there as cannon fodder so that the arrangement wouldn’t be obvious, that there was no point in holding positions. There is information that the soldiers were being persuaded, even ordered to surrender some positions to the enemy. On my instructions, the National Security Service launched an investigation and identified one of the main instigators, who turned out to be a resident of Khankendi. This person was detained in Yerevan.” Shortly after that announcement, it became known that Argishti Karamyan, the head of the National Security Service (NSS), had been removed from office.
The real situation on the Jabrayil front was first reported to the world by Ilya Azar, special correspondent for Novaya Gazeta. The impact of his interview with an Armenian volunteer who fought in Jabrayil during the war was so strong that the Armenian government revoked the journalist’s press credentials two days later.* Ilya Azar wrote: “Volunteer Artur Oganisyan tells me what is happening on the southern front, from where he just came to bury his friends in his hometown Gyumri. Or maybe he came because he does not want to die. ‘They [the Armenian authorities] are deceiving the people! They sent 18-year-old soldiers to the front with one machine gun. They say, sorry, we have no cartridges, sorry, we have no tanks. Bullet-proof vests are rags. There is nothing there. The food truck unloads everything right on the road, and if you want to eat, you have to walk 4 km under Grad fire. We eight friends fetched and carried food on our backs four nights for all four lines.’ I ask him how he got to the front. ‘I just came, no documents, no nothing, they gave me a machine gun and off I went. I had two brothers there, I went after them and stayed. I’m from Gyumri, but I’m a French citizen, I came from France two weeks ago. This is not a man-to-man war, this is a war against planes, against Grads. We surrender four or five lines, they move forward two lines. We were in Hadrut yesterday, some officers came and said that the commander would be tried. That commander gathered all the young people at night and told them to leave Jabrayil. He disobeyed orders from the higher-ups. He said: ‘These are boys, they were enlisted ten days ago but they have been given guns already.’ What are you doing? Where will these children go? Me, I served in the army, and much good this service will do me here anyway. Machine guns against aviation and artillery. I’m like a living corpse there.’”
The heavy combat losses discouraged not only the soldiers but also the officers. This is what MMA fighter Eduard Vartanyan says about the panic of the Armenian army in Jabrayil: “The defense was very poorly organized. After three hours of fighting, the fourth line of defense became the first line of defense. The officers told the soldiers that the second line had been cleared and ordered them to go there. As soon as they came out of the trench, the Azerbaijani army annihilated them with artillery fire. About 40 soldiers of the 80-strong unit survived. As the fighting continued, a general named Komitas** stopped an ambulance, threw out a wounded soldier and fled the battlefield. The general used the ambulance because the Azerbaijani army did not target civilian objects, including ambulances. There is evidence that it wasn’t one wounded soldier that the general ordered to throw out of the ambulance, but several soldiers.” Moreover, some used the panic on the front to sell weapons. Armenian media outlets report that one of them is the deputy chief of the Lachin district police department. The investigation revealed that a police officer fighting in Jabrayil took 45 Kalashnikov assault rifles, 8 pistol magazines with cartridges, hunting rifles with hundreds of cartridges, and a grenade to the village of Tegh in the Syunik Province of Armenia and hid them in a friend’s house. After a while, the man was detained by the Armenian NSS when he tried to sell those weapons.
Fighting for the city of Jabrayil
On the morning of October 4, the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan issued a statement saying that the situation on the front line remained tense, with fierce fighting continuing in all directions. The Armenian command in Nagorno-Karabakh confirmed heavy fighting on the front line. Around 4:00 p.m. of the same day, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense said that the Armenian forces were shelling Sarijali in Agjabadi, several villages in Agdam District and Shahveli in Barda District. About 40 minutes later, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev revealed that Azerbaijani forces had taken control of the city of Jabrayil and several villages in Jabrayil District. On the same day, President Ilham Aliyev congratulated Major General Hikmet Mirzayev, Major General Mayis Barkhudarov and all their personnel on the liberation of the city of Jabrayil and nine villages of Jabrayil District. Vahram Poghosyan, spokesman for the Nagorno-Karabakh separatists, denied the information spread by the Azerbaijani media about the capture of Jabrayil on his Facebook page, saying that the capture of Jabrayil was an absolute lie that had nothing to do with reality. The leader of the separatists, Arayik Harutyunyan, also said that the news of Jabrayil’s capture on October 5 was false. “I visited Jabrayil this morning. I acquainted myself with the situation on site and discussed the objectives with the command. I was amazed by the boys’ fighting spirit and their confidence in victory. The Karabakh Defense Army continues to fight for every inch of land not only in this direction, but along the entire perimeter of the line of contact. Our efforts to defeat the enemy will undoubtedly be successful.”
In the meantime, the Azerbaijani army had gathered a large number of troops in the Jabrayil direction. According to the spokesman for the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense Anar Eyvazov, the enemy was attacked along the entire front line, suffering heavy casualties. Despite the news of Jabrayil’s liberation, there was no video showing that the city was under the control of the Azerbaijani army. The last video shared by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense was from the villages of Shukurbayli and Sheybey. The first foreign journalists to film in the liberated areas were TV100 journalists Burak Ersemiz and Bülent Kördemirci. The video they shared as footage from the liberated city of Jabrayil was in fact from the village of Shukurbayli in Jabrayil District. The lack of video footage and the fact that the Turkish journalists were not allowed to leave the village of Shukurbayli in the Jabrayil direction meant that the fighting in the city was still ongoing. On October 5, Vahram Poghosyan announced a temporary retreat in some parts of the front. His statement said: “To avoid speculation, I would like to say that the Defense Army has retreated ‘in order to avoid unnecessary losses in some sectors of the front and to inflict more damage on the enemy’. The command of the Defense Army expertly controls the battlefield, and the day is not far when the enemy troops will begin to retreat.”
Political scientist Yevgeny Krutikov, an expert on the Caucasus and the Balkans, writes: “On October 5, the question of which side controlled the city of Jabrayil remained controversial. Although the Azerbaijani side made an official statement about capturing the city, it seems that this was not entirely true. The Azerbaijani army may have entered Jabrayil, but it was unable to fortify its positions there under the direct fire of Armenian artillery.”
The counteroffensive of the Armenian army
On October 4, after President Ilham Aliyev posted on Twitter about the liberation of the villages of Karkhulu, Shukurbayli, Chereken, Dashkasan, Horovlu, Mahmudlu, Jafarabad, Yukhari Maralyan, and Dejal, along with the city of Jabrayil, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in an interview that there was a surprise awaiting the Azerbaijani army in Jabrayil: “Given the information that came in today from early morning, we can say that the plan of the Karabakh command worked: they took tactical steps in the south, left a corridor and lured the Azerbaijani military there. As we speak, literally in these very seconds, their corps is being dealt crushing blows. And I think that this will be the key moment in the entire operation. In these minutes, according to my information, a real foundation is being laid for the final victory of the Karabakh army.”
Before that, it was reported the Armenians had counterattacked and inflicted heavy losses on the Azerbaijani army on the northern front. Although a video was released about the situation in the Madagiz direction, no evidence was provided that the area had been seized by the Armenians. The reality was different. The Joint Corps of the Azerbaijani army under the command of Major General Mayis Barkhudarov was moving slowly for 10 days along the Araz River valley and the Iranian border, approaching Jabrayil and capturing many small villages of Jabrayil District on the way. After that, the Armenian command decided to withdraw the army to the foothills to “avoid unnecessary losses.” General Barkhudarov’s corps waded into the heavy defense of the Armenians near the city of Jabrayil. The Azerbaijani army stopped in this direction and began to suffer heavy losses. The Azerbaijani troops fell into the same trap several times. The retreating Armenian army fired at the advancing Azerbaijani army from multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS). As the directions of the army’s movement were known, the Armenian command covered those directions with artillery fire. Although the Azerbaijani army tried to avoid direct fire, attempts to raise a flag over the ruins of villages caused casualties. To avoid losses, Barkhudarov changed the direction of the attack, instead of attacking the foothills head on. The army suddenly began to move along the Araz River valley along the Geyan plain. Thus, the army captured an unprotected area without any difficulty, but the flank of the attack clearly sagged. The Armenians could cut off the narrow corridor from Jabrayil to the Iranian border and box in the advancing units of the Azerbaijani corps. A similar operation was carried out by Donetsk separatists in the Donbas war in 2014. As soon as the Ukrainian paratroopers went too deep into the territory, they were immediately pressed to the Russian border and either forced to surrender or destroyed by artillery fire. Apparently, that was the kind of operation Pashinyan had in mind.
Heavy fighting continued in Jabrayil on October 5–6. Around 8:53 a.m. on October 7, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense issued a statement that fierce fighting had taken place along the entire front line in the Karabakh conflict zone on the night of October 7. The Armenian side also confirmed the clashes and said that the Azerbaijani military had made an attempt to move south-east. Press Secretary of the Armenian Ministry of Defense Shushan Stepanyan posted about the fighting on her Facebook page on October 7: “At night, the enemy tried to advance and fortify in the south-eastern direction (near Jabrayil), but was hit by rocket and artillery fire of the Armenian military. At 6:30 in the morning, after another rocket and artillery strike, the remains of three enemy brigades retreated in panic. The enemy lost 60 men and 22 units of military equipment. A video of this operation is being prepared and will be released soon. The Defense Army is taking the initiative in various sections of the front.” Around 4:46 p.m. on the same day, the Armenian side reported that a large Azerbaijani POL storage depot was destroyed in the attack in the city of Jabrayil. Baku, in turn, called the information about 60 Azerbaijani soldiers killed in Jabrayil false.
Statements by the Armenian army about the encirclement of three Azerbaijani brigades were also met with suspicion by military experts at the time. Colonel Igor Strelkov, former operative of the Russian FSB, said the following in an interview on October 8: “It seems to me that the information that the fate of the war is being decided in this city is exaggerated. Even if the Armenian troops did manage to surround three brigades there, in my opinion, there is no talk of real encirclement: it does not mean, firstly, that the encirclement will not be broken, and, secondly, that these brigades will be completely defeated. The videos released by the Armenian side so far were shot from a long distance, showing crushed supply convoys on the road between the former border and the city of Jabrayil. That does not look like three motorized brigades. From a military point of view, the ‘appendix’ formed as a result of a deep penetration of the Azerbaijani troops is theoretically very easy to cut off, given a sufficient amount of manpower and resources. But there is a serious ‘but’: total air supremacy belongs to the Azerbaijani aviation, and there can be no talk of encirclement in such conditions.” Subsequent developments showed that Strelkov’s assumption was correct. Azerbaijani Minister of Defense Colonel General Zakir Hasanov talked about the Armenian counterattack in an interview with REAL TV: “Pashinyan deceived the Armenian people with his statement. We analyzed all available information. I immediately ordered General Barkhudarov to fortify his positions on the heights around Jabrayil. He informed me that the enemy was amassing its troops and planning an attack, but he added that there were not many of them. I thought that maybe they were planning reconnaissance. Mais said that he would report back to me. In fact, the enemy never even had the chance to attack. Our artillery destroyed them on the spot. In my opinion, their military was given the task to get to Jabrayil and take it at any cost. One could tell from the way the attack was conducted that a non-military person was behind the operation. They simply simulated an attack due to lack of manpower.” As another Armenian volunteer who took part in the counterattack said, “Our higher-ups are very bad people, they are telling us to attack Jabrayil, but it’s no longer ours.” The Armenian army suffered heavy losses during this counterattack and was forced to retreat without finishing it. Edward J. Erickson writes: “The Azerbaijani armed forces clearly had the operational and tactical initiative at this point in the campaign. By 10 October, Azerbaijan had liberated Jabrayil and many of the surrounding villages, in effect penetrating the Armenians’ main line of defense. After abandoning qualities of armored vehicles and equipment, defeated Armenian regiments withdrew northward toward the town of Hadrut. Advances were also announced in Khojavend and Fuzuli Districts and, in the Aras Valley, II Corps pushed toward Zangilan.” Thus, on October 10, the fighting for Jabrayil was over.
Losses in lives and equipment on both sides
Another piece of misinformation during the fighting in the Jabrayil direction was the news of the capture of Mais Barkhudarov. Armenpress news agency reported: “The Azerbaijani Genc Bozqurdlar news website is reporting that Major-General Mayis Barkhudarov of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces has been wounded in action and taken into custody by the Karabakh military.” The Genc Bozqurdlar page cited by Armenpress was in fact an Armenian page sharing news in the Azerbaijani language, but it changed its name right before the war. The credibility of this information was so low that even when the spokesman for the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Armenia Artsrun Hovhannisyan was asked about it, he actually denied it: “At the moment, I can say that there are no wounded soldiers taken prisoner on our side. We have the bodies of many Azerbaijani servicemen on our side, and I can neither deny nor confirm it.” On October 4, the press secretary of the Armenian Ministry of Defense Shushan Stepanyan wrote on her Facebook page: “The Defense Army was able to suppress the large-scale enemy attack launched today. Our forces counterattacked in one of the directions. Three aircrafts of the Azerbaijani Air Force were shot down in the Jabrayil direction.” Chief of the Press Service of the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense Vagif Dargahli denied the information about the destroyed aircrafts. The statement said: “We repeat once again that not a single combat aircraft of the Azerbaijan Air Force was shot down. On the contrary, Azerbaijan’s attack UAVs continue to destroy the military equipment of the Armenian armed forces. Video recordings of the military operations of our attack UAVs are regularly presented to the public.” However, an Azerbaijani Su-25 was shot down that day. Azerbaijan officially admitted it after the war. Lieutenant Colonel Elchin Mammadov commented on the incident: “On the same day, a Su-25 attack aircraft piloted by Colonel Zaur Nudiraliyev approached the target in the Jabrayil direction to carry out the assigned combat mission. At that time, the central command post received information that enemy air defense systems had been deployed, and according to our intelligence data, there should have been no enemy air defense systems in this area. We were ordered to return immediately. Colonel Zaur Nudiraliyev struck the intended target and was on his way back, but at that moment contact with him was lost. The colonel’s aircraft was shot down by the enemy air defense systems. Despite being seriously wounded, he could eject, but he did not do this to avoid capture by the enemy. Colonel Nudiraliyev crashed his aircraft into the enemy positions, destroying the enemy’s manpower and armored vehicles, and died heroically.” This was the only Su-25 attack aircraft Azerbaijan lost in the war. According to unconfirmed reports, about 200 Azerbaijani soldiers were killed by MLRS fire around Jabrayil, and several units of equipment were destroyed. The Armenians were also able to destroy two 122 mm D-30 howitzers positioned very close to the front line.
The number of casualties on the Armenian side was many times higher. According to the Armenian Ministry of Defense, more than 280 Armenian servicemen were killed along the entire front line in the period from September 27 to October 7. Artur Oganisyan, who fought as a volunteer in Jabrayil, said these figures were far from reality. The following is the dialogue between Ilya Azar of Novaya Gazeta and Oganisyan.
“The Armenian authorities say the casualties are around 200 people. Does this sound like the truth?” (The Armenian authorities publish the personal data of the dead soldiers, but at the same time they report that they have already destroyed more than 3,000 enemy soldiers, so, even taking into account the fact that attacking is objectively more difficult, the figures seem questionable.)
“200 men died in front of my eyes alone, on our line! There are actually thousands of dead soldiers!”
Arthur Oganisyan was not exaggerating. The fighting in the Jabrayil direction accounts for 25–30% of the total losses of the Armenian army in the Second Karabakh War. The Armenian army lost its best-trained soldiers in the south. The remains of Armenian soldiers are still being found in Jabrayil District one year after the end of the war.
Analysis and conclusion
Before the liberation of Jabrayil, most military experts said that, based on the strength of Armenian resistance, the campaign was not going well for Azerbaijan. BBC experts say: “By October 9, the Azerbaijani army captured the city of Jabrayil, the administrative center of one of the seven districts. The city is 20 km away from the line of contact, and it took the attacking army almost two weeks to cover this distance. That is, the offensive of the Azerbaijani troops in the first days can hardly be called fast.” However, some military experts who were more cautious in their statements. Yevgeny Krutikov writes: “Armenia does have some local success, but this is success in passive defense. At the same time, Barkhudarov’s corps did not go anywhere, and all day on October 8 and the first half of October 9, Azerbaijanis continued to try to attack the Armenian positions in the area above and north of Jabrayil.”
Edward J. Erickson refers to the losses of the Armenian army by October 3 as the culmination point of the fighting for Jabrayil: “It appears that the culmination point of the early parts of the campaign was reached on October 3, by which date the Armenians had lost hundreds of tanks, artillery pieces and multiple launch rocket systems, and unarmored trucks and vehicles. Moreover, they had lost a large number of ammunition depots, a dozen command posts, and large amounts of munitions and food supplies in truck convoys destroyed along the lines of communications.”
Azerbaijani conflict resolution expert and historian Arif Yunus describes the fighting for Jabrayil and the military campaign in general as follows: “Azerbaijan suffered heavy losses at the first stage, when breaking through the first line of defense: there are minefields there, it was hard. At the second stage, it was the Armenians who suffered colossal losses. Their mistake was that they expected the war to last five to seven days and, most importantly, that they thought that in the meantime Russia would definitely come to their rescue. But the hostilities dragged on for a month and a half, and Russia arrived at the very end, when they were already completely crushed. In the end, even children were drafted: I saw schoolchildren with machine guns on many Armenian websites, but when I saw girls with machine guns, I realized that things were really bad for the Armenians.”
Colonel Igor Strelkov links the Armenians’ defeat to their overconfidence in their own strength and lack of common strategic plans: “There has to be a strategic plan. The strategic plan of the Armenians was to defend everything. They built well-fortified areas, but for some reason the enemy’s air superiority was not taken into account at all. As a result, all tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and almost all weapons were easy targets because they were in the open. Yes, there were good trenches, minefields, but not even anti-aircraft camouflage. They thought that once again they would defeat the Azerbaijanis who didn’t know how to fight and would not let them into the occupied territories. Their stubborn resistance along the entire front line is reminiscent of the Polish army’s plans in 1939 to defend everything from the Danzig Corridor to the Carpathians.” In his opinion, the main mistake of the Armenians in this conflict was that they had been preparing for the first war. Confident in their strength, the Armenians did not take into account the fact that the enemy could break through the fortified areas along the border: “As soon as the Azerbaijani army managed to breach the line of defense along the Araz, using the latest technology and superiority in manpower, the front immediately collapsed. There were no prepared fortified areas or defensive posts in the rear. From that moment on, the Azerbaijani troops easily repulsed the counterattacks and began to attack from all directions. Another mistake was that the Armenians tried to counterattack in the conditions of total enemy air superiority. They should have built new lines of defense in the Hadrut direction instead of attacking Jabrayil.” Seyran Ohanyan echoes Strelkov’s opinion regarding the last point: “Of course, we fought against a strong coalition, but I believe we could have won anyway, especially in different parts of Jabrayil’s mountainous forest area and in Hadrut.”
Thus, with the liberation of Jabrayil, the Azerbaijani army began to advance rapidly north and west starting from October 10. With the exception of the battles for Fizuli, Jabrayil was where the Azerbaijani army suffered the most losses and encountered the most resistance. Military expert Adalat Verdiyev also says that Jabrayil was one of the places where the heaviest fighting in the Second Karabakh war took place. Jabrayil was one of the bloodiest battlefields during the First Karabakh War as well. During the fighting for the city of Jabrayil between the Lankaran battalion and the Armenian army, the city was captured three times. In the end, the city was completely occupied by the Armenian army on August 20, 1993 (Zhirokhov, 2012:274). It is unknown how many troops from both sides took part in the fighting in Jabrayil during the Patriotic War. Since the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev awarded 10,211 people with the For the Liberation of Jabrayil Medal, we can say that about 10,000 Azerbaijani servicemen, including reserve forces, fought in the campaign.
* On October 8, the Armenian government decided to amend the martial law. The amendments also said the Armenian police had the authority to request the removal of published content, “to temporarily seize or arrest printing devices, loudspeakers and copiers.”.
** Komitas Muradyan
Zhirokhov, Mikhail (2012) Mech i ogon’ Karabakha. Khronika neznamenitoy voyny (The Sword and Fire of Karabakh. A Chronicle of a Non-Famous War. 1988-1994)
Translated from Topchubashov Center