Armenia: Huge cloud of smoke seen after explosion
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Vladimir Putin is abandoning his allies as he focuses his attention on illegally annexing Ukraine while Armenia faces increasing pressure from neighbouring Azerbaijan. Over 200 Armenian soldiers and 80 Azerbaijani troops have been killed in clashes on September 13-14 and later on September 28 – marking the worst violence between the two countries since the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war. But Armenia’s pleas for help to its ally Putin have “fallen on deaf ears” with the tyrant having to focus all his attention on his ill-conceived and illegitimate invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile top NATO members push for Ukraine to become part of the military alliance, with president Volodymy Zelensky applying for a fast-track membership for his country last Friday.
Writing for Unherd, Moscow-based journalist Gabriel Gavin wrote that Russia was “no longer interested in a peace deal” as Azerbaijan exerts its military power over neighbouring Armenia. Armenia is formally an ally of Russia, as a member of the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) mutual defence pact.
However, Mr Gavin reported: “Its pleas for Kremlin support have fallen on deaf ears, with other member states like Kazakhstan ruling out sending troops to de-occupy the territory. Russia is clearly reluctant to spare any resources or manpower from its war in Ukraine, leaving the Armenians on their own.”
While previous skirmish fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan focused on the area in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, the latest bombardments from the latter suggest it is ramping up its aggression. The two countries have fought two wars and seen regular smaller clashes span three decades.
After an overnight outbreak of fighting on September 13-14 killed almost 100 soldiers, Armenia appealed to the CSTO for help – but none came. Russia claimed to have brokered a ceasefire, but a further deadly clash erupted on September 28, bringing the death toll closer to 300.
Azerbaijan has now begun striking cities along the southern border, including Goris, Kapan, Sotk, Artanish, Vardenis and Ishkhanasar. Hundreds of civilians are fleeing the area as a result.
The two countries have been locked in conflict over the ownership of Nagorno-Karabakh for years. Armenian-backed separatists seized the mainly Armenian-populated region from Azerbaijan during a war in the early 1990s that killed some 30,000 people.
Diplomatic efforts to settle the conflict brought little progress over the years, and the two sides fought another war in 2020 that lasted six weeks before a Russian-brokered cease-fire was agreed. Some analysts have suggested that Azerbaijan’s recent attacks were a test to see whether Russia would come to help – and the lack of any significant response from the Kremlin leaves Armenia vulnerable.
Richard Giragosian, director of the Regional Studies Center think tank said: “The attacks weren’t just a move against Armenia. They’re challenging and defying Russian interests.”
Meanwhile Putin desperately tries to solidify his grip on the south east of Ukraine – but his efforts to formally make these regions part of Russia have been fraught with difficulty.
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Last week the Kremlin claimed to have successfully annexed four Ukrainian provinces – Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson. However, this has reportedly already been undone as Mr Zelensky’s forces continue their powerful counterattack, meaning that none of the claimed areas are fully under Russian control.
On Monday, the Russian military acknowledged that Kyiv’s forces had broken through in the Kherson region. It said the Ukrainian army and its “superior tank units” had managed to “penetrate the depths of our defence” around the villages of Zoltaya Balka and Alexsandrovka.
The Moscow-installed leader of Kherson, Vladimir Saldo, described the situation as “tense” on Russian state TV. Ukraine has regained territory in Luhansk, as well as reclaiming the strategically important city of Lyman in Donetsk.
In Kherson, Kyiv’s forces are making an advance along the Dnipro River in a move which, if successful, could cut off hundreds of Russian soldiers.
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