The Azeri Aggression: the 2016 War

The April Four-Day War

On the night of 1 to 2 April, in gross violation of the ceasefire agreement of 12 May 1994 and the agreement of 6 February 1995 on strengthening the ceasefire, the Azerbaijani side undertook a large-scale offensive along the entire Line of Contact between the armed forces of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic and Azerbaijan, using heavy equipment, artillery and combat aviation. Heavy fighting took place particularly in the southern (Hadrut) and north-eastern (Martakert) directions of the Line of Contact between armed forces of the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani forces launched artillery strikes at peacefuly populated areas, such as Talish, Mataghis, Martakert, Nerkin Horatagh, Mekhakavan, Araler.

The intensity and the scale of the military actions, the number of forces and combat equipment involved, as well as the statements of Azerbaijani officials clearly indicate that the events of 2-5 April were a carefully planned and prepared military aggression. The intensity of border clashes had been on rise since 2014. From January 2015, Azerbaijani armed forces had been using mortars to shell the positions of the NKR Defense Army. From September they had been using heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems and from December onwards, tanks. According to SIPRI Fact Sheet “Trends in International Arms Transfers, 2015”, Azerbaijan was the largest importer of major weapons in Europe from 2011 to 2015 ( In violation of the maximum allowed ceilings defined by the CFE Treaty, Azerbaijan had acquired large number of offensive weapons.

On the first day of the aggression, April 2, the Azerbaijani Ambassador to Russia in interview to the radio station “Govorit Moskva” (Moscow speaking) and television network "Dozhd" on 2 April 2016 said that Azerbaijan had no other option than to solve the conflict by force. (


In the beginning of hostilities Azerbaijan seized 21 positions on the whole (both in the north and in the south). But the Armenian forces succeeded in taking back 11 of them, predominantly situated in the northern part.

Intensive fighting was stopped in the midday of April 5: via mediation of the Russian Federation ceasefire was achieved along the entire Line of Contact. 

On May 16, 2016, President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan and President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev met in Vienna, with the participation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov, Secretary of State of the United States of America John Kerry, State Secretary for European Affairs of France Harlem Desir, as well as the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs. After the negotiations, the co-chairing states of the OSCE Minsk Group issued a joint statement, in which they reiterated that there could be no military solution to the conflict. The Co-Chairs highlighted the importance of respecting the 1994 and 1995 ceasefire agreements. The statement also reads that the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to finalize in the shortest possible time an OSCE investigative mechanism, to expand the existing Office of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, as well as to continue the exchange of data on missing persons under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

On June 20, 2016, the Russian side initiated another meeting of the Presidents of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in St. Petersburg, at which the parties confirmed the agreements reached at the May 16 Summit held in Vienna.

Violations of international humanitarian law 

During the hostilities, the Azerbaijani army committed numerous war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law, both against civilians and servicemen of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic. On the very first day of the aggression, the Azerbaijani army shelled a school in Martuni region, and 12-year-old Vagharshak Grigoryan was killed, and two children were injured. In the village of Talish of the Martakert region, the Azerbaijani servicemen committed the brutal murder of three elderly Armenian family members, followed by mutilation of their bodies. The bodies of over twenty soldiers of the NKR Defense Army were also abused: their heads, wrists, fingers and ears were cut off. At least four soldiers were tortured while still alive. The Azerbaijani soldiers, posing with cut-off heads, demonstrated them to the residents of the nearby villages of Azerbaijan. Such manifestations of medieval cruelty are considered as promotion-deserving actions: an Azerbaijani soldier, posing with a cut-off head, was rewarded by the president of that country. 

Photos of the 2016 Azeri aggression from open Internet sources

The deliberate nature of the violations of international humanitarian law can be vividly seen, in particular, in the interview of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson, who stated that there were "no civilians" in Nagorno Karabakh, "but the field and the military" (, as well as in the statement of the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense, which publicly threatened to strike "crushing blows" on capital Stepanakert, using all the "heavy weaponry" at their disposal (

Consequences. Territorial losses and casualties

As a result of war, Azerbaijan took under its control a number of hills. On 17 May, 2016, president of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan announced that the Armenian side had lost 800 hectares of land, which didn’t have any strategic importance (6.15 hectares were in the northern part, near town of Talish, 2.1 hectares in the south, known as Varazatumb/Lele Tepe). (

In May 28, 2016 the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan circulated information according to which they took under their control 2000 hectares of land.

From April 2 to 5, during direct fighting in the Line of Contact 65 soldiers, 13 volunteers and reservists lost their lives (among them 16 officers, 15 contract servicemen, 34 conscripts, 11 volunteers, 2 reservists).

From April 2 to 13, during the escalation of tensions at the border 9 soldiers and 2 volunteers were killed. As a consequence of the criminal acts of the enemy, 4 civilians from Artsakh had also lost their lives.

Overall, the Armenian side had 93 casualties. (

Azerbaijan didn’t officially publish the exact number of casualties.