The Azeri Aggression: the 2020 War

The Beginning of the War. Military Operations

On September 27, 2020 Azerbaijan with the direct involvement of Turkey and foreign terrorist fighters launched a large scale war against Artsakh, which lasted 44 days. The Azerbaijani side launched missile attacks along the entire line of contact targeting also the peaceful settlements, including the capital Stepanakert. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry officially announced the launch of a "counterattack", which proves that the actions had been planned for a long time.

A state of war and general mobilization were declared in the Republic of Armenia and Artsakh. A partial mobilization was declared in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijani army used 300-caliber rocket launchers from its arsenal: Smerch, Kasirga, Polonezand LAR-160 cluster munitions. Mostly modern Turkish weapons and ammunition, drones and planes, F16    and Turkish Bayraktar UAVs were used.

Combat operations were mainly conducted in the northern, south-southeastern directions. From the very first day of the aggression unleashed by Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijani armed forces targeted the civilian settlements of both Nagorno Karabakh and the Republic of Armenia. A civilian bus was burnt from a drone strike in Vardenis on the second day of the war. On October 1 Azerbaijan shelled the Vardenis-Sotk highway, employed artillery in the direction of Shatvan village of Gegharkunik region of Armenia, as well as fired a missile from a combat UAV at a Mets Masrik residence. During the war, the US Embassy urged its staff and citizens to avoid traveling outside of Yerevan.

On September 28, Azerbaijan launched a offensive operation in the Araks valley and Mataghis-Talish sections, and on September 30 carried out bombing and missile attacks at high altitudes in the direction of settlements of Hadrut and Martuni regions of the Artsakh Republic.

The Azerbaijani army continuously targeted the civilian population in Stepanakert, using "Polonez" and "Smerch" multiple launch rocket systems, even schools and kindergartens were not bypassed. On October 4, the enemy also targeted the civic infrastructure of Shushi. As a response, military facilities permanently located in major cities of Azerbaijan, such as the Ganja military airport became the targets of the Defense Army.


Ghazanchetsots Church in Shushi before and after the missile attack. 

Photos of the attack are by and courtesy of David Ghahramanyan.

Azerbaijan has committed a number of war crimes throughout the war. Cluster munitions were used against densely populated settlements. On October 8, the Azerbaijani armed forces twice fired high-precision missiles at the Ghazanchetsots Church in Shushi, as a result of which two Russian journalists were wounded. During the war, Azerbaijani forces repeatedly opened fire on media representatives in Artsakh. On October 1, as Azerbaijan hit civilian objects, in Martuni 4 civilians were killed, 11 civilians were injured, including journalists (two of whom were French journalists). On October 4, a Russian journalist suffered a concussion during the shelling in Stepanakert. The Azerbaijani armed forces have also fired at hospitals, the hospitals were also treating civilian patients.  The maternity hospital in Stepanakert was bombed by Azerbaijan, the Stepanakert Mother and Child Healthcare Centre was targeted. Another example of war crimes is the killing by the saboteurs of two residents of Hadrut, a mother and her disabled son at their home. There are a number of videos in which Armenian prisoners of war are humiliated and killed. Azerbaijan used phosphorus weapons to set fires in Artsakh forests adjacent to civilian settlements, where civilians also took refuge. On November 6 Azerbaijani armed forces shelled the archaeological camp near the Tigranakert historical-cultural reserve.

According to radio intelligence, the Azerbaijani armed forces were setting up bases for terrorist groups. Azerbaijan smuggled armaments, mercenaries from Bagram Airfield on board covert flights. An Azerbaijani prisoner of war stated that Pakistan’s military forces helped Azerbaijani armed forces in attack on Artsakh. 

All attempts at a ceasefire were thwarted by attacks by Azerbaijani forces. On the night of October 12-13, the Azerbaijani armed forces continued to target the peaceful settlements of Artsakh, shelling the cities of Askeran, Martuni and Martakert. On October 14, the Azerbaijani armed forces targeted on-duty military equipment in the territory of the Republic of Armenia in the area bordering Karvajar, based solely on assumptions that this equipment was allegedly on stand-by to strike Azeri settlements.

The newly constructed and inaugurated Art and Youth Centre in Shushi was also deliberately targeted. 

Photos by and courtesy of David Ghahramanyan.


On October 27 the National Assembly adopted the legislative package to create a militia in Armenia. On October 31 Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan appealed to the President of the Russian Federation to start immediate consultations to define the types and amount of assistance that the Russian Federation may provide to the Republic of Armenia to ensure its security. The MFA of Russia answered that Russia would provide all necessary assistance to Yerevan if the hostilities were transferred to the territory of Armenia.

On November 1 the adversary used military aircraft on the city of Martuni. Shushi was constantly being shelled during the last days of war.

At night of November 9-10, at 00:00, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia issued a joint statement calling for an end to hostilities.


Turkey's Involvement

Turkey was involved in the war not only by supplying arms and military assistance, but also by deploying mercenaries from northern Syria to Azerbaijan. According to international media sources 3,000-4,000 mercenaries were hired to participate in these days war activities against Artsakh and Armenia for 1,500-2,000 USD. France, Russia and the US Pentagon representative also reported the facts of deployment of mercenaries. Due to Turkey's involvement in the war, Canada stopped supplying military equipment to Turkey, and a number of states and organizations called for concern over the involvement of a third country in the war. Russia repeatedly called for immediate withdrawal of mercenaries and terrorists from the conflict zone. At the same time, Iran announced that it will not allow terrorist groups to turn the northern borders of the country into security-threatening areas. Rohani also expressed concern over possible interference by other countries in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. House of Representatives of Netherlands adopts resolution over terrorists sent by Turkey and The Uruguayan Senate has condemned the participation of Turkish mercenaries in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

On October  4 the Government of the RA submitted a request with the ECHR on applying interim measures against Turkey. The decision of the interim measure proved the fact of Turkey's involvement. On October 15 Turkey refused to provide its airspace for transportation of humanitarian cargo to Armenia. On October 20 the Government of Armenia banned the import of goods of Turkish origin.

On November 4 Turkish nationalist Gray Wolves were officially banned in France. Turks had provoked riots in the Armenian districts of French cities and vandalized Armenian Genocide Memorial and the building of the Consulate General of Armenia in Lyon. The French Foreign Minister said that the only country that did not call for respecting the ceasefire is Turkey.


Ceasefire Attempts 

The first attempt of ceasefire was initiated by Russia. At the invitation of the Russian President, the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan went to Moscow. On October 9 a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan launched in Moscow. As a result of more than 10 hours of consultations, a ceasefire agreement was reached through the mediation of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov between Foreign Minister of Armenia Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Jeyhun Bayramov. At the end of the closed-door meeting, a joint statement was issued by the Foreign Ministers, according to which the parties agreed to establish a 72-hour ceasefire from October 10 (12:00) for humanitarian purposes.

The sides agreed on the steps presented below.

1.To declare a cessation of hostilities for humanitarian purposes on October 10, 2020, starting from 12:00, for the exchange of the prisoners of war, other people detained and bodies of those killed, with the mediation and in accordance with the criteria of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

2.Further parameters of the cessation of hostilities will be agreed upon additionally.

3.The Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan, with the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, on the basis of the fundamental principles of the settlement, are launching substantive negotiations with the aim of achieving early peaceful resolution.

4.The sides reiterate the inalterability of the format of the peace process.

Ignoring the ceasefire announced for humanitarian purposes on October 10 at 12:00 pm Azerbaijan attacked the  Karakhambeyli area at 12:05 pm. Even during the ceasefire, Azerbaijan targeted an ambulance transporting the wounded.

The second attempt of ceasefire was on October 18, when the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan agreed to a humanitarian truce as of 00h 00 local time. 

This decision was taken following the statement of the Presidents of the French Republic, the Russian Federation and the United States of America, representing the co-chair countries of the OSCE Minsk Group, of 1 October 2020, the Statement by the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group of 5 October, and in line with Moscow Statement of 10 October 2020. The cessation of hostilities was for humanitarian purposes for the exchange of the prisoners of war, other people detained and bodies of those killed. Artsakh was ready to provide humanitarian corridor to besieged Azeri troops if ceasefire is observed.

Azerbaijan once again violated the ceasefire regime during the period of 00:04-02:45, firing from artillery and gunfire weapons in the northern direction of the contact line, and fired rockets in the period of 02:20-02:45 in the southern direction.

The third attempt of humanitarian ceasefire was initiated by the USA. Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov met with Deputy Secretary of State Stephen E. Biegun on October 24, and agreed on humanitarian ceasefire to take effect at 08:00 a.m. local time (12:00 a.m. EDT) on October 26. After violating the ceasefire the Azerbaijani side fired artillery in the direction of the north- and south-eastern directions of Artsakh.

On November 10,  Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan announced that he had signed a statement with the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and the President of Russia Vladimir Putin on ending the war in Artsakh as of 01:00.

According to the statement:

1. A complete ceasefire shall be established and all hostilities shall be stopped in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone as of 00:00 Moscow time on November 10, 2020.

The Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia, hereinafter referred to as the Parties, shall remain at their current positions.

2. Aghdam region shall be returned to the Republic of Azerbaijan until November 20, 2020.

3. Peacekeeping troops of the Russian Federation shall be deployed along the line of contact in Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Lachin corridor, including 1,960 servicemen with firearms, 90 armored personnel carriers, 380 units of motor vehicles and special equipment.

4. The peacekeeping troops of the Russian Federation are being deployed in parallel with the withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces. The peacekeeping troops of the Russian Federation shall stay there for a period of 5 years, with automatic extension for the next 5-year periods, if none of the Parties declares of its intention to terminate the application of this provision 6 months before the expiration of the preceding period.

5. A peacekeeping center shall be deployed to monitor the ceasefire with a view to increasing the effectiveness of control over the implementation of the agreements reached by the Parties to the conflict.

6. The Republic of Armenia shall return the Kelbajar region to the Republic of Azerbaijan by November 15, 2020, and the Lachin region by December 1, 2020. The Lachin corridor (5 km wide), which will provide for communication between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia and at the same time will not affect the city of Shushi, shall remain under the control of the peacekeeping troops of the Russian Federation.

The Parties have agreed that a plan for the construction of a new route along the Lachin corridor shall be determined within the next three years, providing communication between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, with the subsequent redeployment of Russian peacekeeping troops to protect this route.

The Republic of Azerbaijan shall guarantee traffic safety for citizens, vehicles and goods in both directions along the Lachin corridor.

7. Internally displaced persons and refugees shall return to Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent areas under the control of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

8. An exchange of prisoners of war, hostages and other detained persons and bodies of the dead is to be carried out.

9. All economic and transport links in the region shall be unblocked. The Republic of Armenia guarantees the safety of transport links between the western regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic with a view to organizing the unimpeded movement of citizens, vehicles and goods in both directions. Control over transport communication is exercised by the Border Guard Service bodies of the FSS of Russia.

The Parties agree that the construction of new transport communications linking the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic with the western regions of Azerbaijan shall be provided.


The Reaction of the International Community

The UN Security Council met on 29.09.2020 at 11 pm CEST behind closed doors to discuss the situation. The UN Security Council strongly condemned the use of force and voiced support for the call by the UN Secretary General to immediately stop fighting, de-escalate tensions and return to constructive negotiations. The UN Security Council members expressed their full support for the central role of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs.

On October leaders of co-chairs of Minsk Group Putin, Macron, Trump issued joint statement : Immediate cessation of hostilities, return to the negotiating table without preconditions. PACE monitors and EU called the parties the same. The parties of the Council of Europe called for international verification mechanisms for maintaining the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh.

On October 5, the Foreign Ministers of Russia, France and the United States strongly condemned the escalation of violence, and on October 12, the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs issued a joint statement. On October 5, Iran called for an end to hostilities and a dialogue, and announced that it was working on a plan to resolve the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. At the beginning of the war, the Georgian Prime Minister, in his turn, proposed to hold an Armenian-Azerbaijani summit in Tbilisi.

According to on-site investigation in Nagorno Karabakh by the Human Rights Watch, Azerbaijan has repeatedly used widely banned cluster munitions in residential areas in Nagorno Karabakh.  On October 5 Amnesty International condemned the use of cluster bombs against civilians in Stepanakert and Shushi and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called for an end to their use. The members of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) and Australian Holocaust Institute see imminent genocidal threat deriving from Azerbaijan and Turkey against Artsakh. World Monuments Fund condemned targeting of Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shushi.

The ECHR accepted Armenia's application for an interim measure against Azerbaijan and ECHR demanded Azerbaijan to immediately provide information about Armenian POWs. Resolutions condemning the Azerbaijani aggression were adopted by the parliaments of Luxembourg and Cyprus.

During the war, members of the Iranian parliament, member of the United Russia faction of the Russian Duma Vitaly Milonov, Bundestag member Stephen Cotre and a delegation led by Belgian MP George Dalman visited Artsakh.

On October 20, the UN Security Council discussed the issue of monitoring the ceasefire in Nagorno Karabakh. High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Joseph Borrell և US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on foreign forces to refrain from actions in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone, stressed the need for an immediate cessation of violence, and respect for the ceasefire. The United States offered to deploy Scandinavian peacekeepers in Artsakh.

A group of countries provided humanitarian aid to Artsakh during the war: Luxembourg - 100,000 euros, Germany - 2 million euros, Great Britain - 1 million pounds, Norway - 1.5 million, the EU - 400 thousand euros.


Recognition of Artsakh

On October 5, the parliament of Artsakh called on the parliaments of all countries to recognize Artsakh's independence in order to prevent war crimes. Thus, on October 16, the Italian Milan city, and on October 28,  Glendale city in the USA recognized the independence of Artsakh. The independence of Artsakh was recognized by the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales of Australia. 

On October 24, Frank Pallone, Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, along with 31 other representatives, presented a resolution to the US House of Representatives on recognition of the independence of the Artsakh Republic.



As a result of the Turkish-Azeri aggression of 2020, most of Artsakh came under Azeri occupation. Thousands were killed on both sides. Apart from the loss of human life, significant loss of territory and damage to the peace process of the conflict, Artsakh suffered considerable damage to its infrastructures and residential buildings. Over 40,000 Armenians from the occupied town of Sushi and the the entire district of Hadrut had to flee their homes. There are still many missing persons and scores of POWs in Azerbaijani jails. Thousands of monuments and sites of cultural heritage, including churches and monasteries fell under Azeri control. While some were destroyed even after the military actions, the fate of the remaining is unknown but certainly grim.