At least one Azerbaijani helicopter and several drones were shot down by the Armenian military, according to the country’s Defense Ministry, which said the ambush began at 4:10 a.m. against civilian settlements, including the regional capital of Stepanakert.
All of the crew of the downed helicopter survived, Armenian military officials said.
“Our response will be proportionate and the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan bears full responsibility for the situation,” the Armenian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry, in response, said it had launched a military operation along the “line of contact”, a heavily mined no-man’s land that separates Armenian-backed forces from Azeri troops in the region, Russian news agencies reported.
The two former Soviet countries have been in conflict for nearly three decades over Azerbaijan’s escape, mainly the ethno-Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh, and border clashes have intensified in recent months.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry condemned “the aggression of the military-political leaders of Azerbaijan” and declared that the Armenian side will provide an appropriate military and political response.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry posted on its official website at 9:10 a.m. GMT on Sunday morning: “Our troops have launched a whole-front counteroffensive.” The message continued:
According to the information received, 12 OSA anti-aircraft missile systems of Armenian air defense units were destroyed in different directions. An Azerbaijani Air Force combat helicopter was shot down in the direction of Tartar, the crew members are alive.
“The rapid counter-offensive of our troops continues.”
The conflict comes after an August report by The independent which revealed that the two regions were engaged in a deadly arms race, each publicly admitting to having bought Russian Su-30SM fighter jets for £ 39million each.
Artak Beglaryan, a human rights ombudsperson in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, tweeted about the attack, citing multiple deaths and injuries. “A woman and a child were killed,” Beglaryan wrote, adding: “Some schools have also been targeted. There are also other civilian casualties. “
The seemingly intractable conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is rooted in century-old communist social engineering projects. Ethnic and nationalist tensions escalated into all-out war (1992-1994) between newly independent states over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave – a landlocked territory of 1,700 square kilometers controlled by Armenia, with a population of 3 million people, but surrounded and claimed by Azerbaijan, a nation of 9 million people.
There has been sporadic fighting in the enclave for decades. A war in 2016 left more than 100 dead, mostly soldiers but a few civilians. Each side accused the other of having started the fighting. Armenia launched mortars and rockets. Azerbaijan sent fighter jets and tanks. Each camp sent drones. Russia quickly negotiated a ceasefire and the fighting ended within days.
The 30-year conflict between the two countries was first fought with small arms and rusty Soviet-era mortars. But thanks to years of weapon purchases, both countries now have formidable arsenals of modern tanks, howitzer artillery guns, unmanned drones and sophisticated anti-aircraft units – making any confrontation good. more potentially catastrophic.
The ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh declared their independence in a conflict that erupted when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
Although a ceasefire was agreed in 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia frequently accuse each other of attacks around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Azerbaijani-Armenian border.
Additional reports by agencies