Humanitarian move and propaganda: What happened on Nakhichevan border?

12.06.2018 | 16:14 | Foreign Policy

During the recent months, the situation has escalated in the Nakhichevan section of Armenian-Azerbaijani border. In April, the press service of the RA Ministry of Defense reported that the Azerbaijani armed forces violated the ceasefire regime several times on April 7-8, and fired in the direction of the Armenian Armed Forces in Nakhichevan. RA Armed Forces silenced the enemy with response actions. After this incident, some Armenian military experts expressed an opinion that with such actions the Azerbaijani side is going to close the two roads to Artsakh – Vardenis-Martakert and Yerevan-Goris-Stepanakert.

 Has Azerbaijan improved its positions in Nakhijevan?

In May, the Azerbaijani media started circulating news that the Azerbaijani side improved its positions on the Nakhichevan-Armenia border. The main source of the opinions were the thoughts expressed by editor-in-chief of the Hetq periodical Edik Baghdasaryan. Baghdasaryan spoke about the appointment of Commander of the 5th Army Corps, Major General Artak Davtyan as Chief of Staff of the RA Armed Forces, and was amazed why Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan chose him for that post. Defense of the Nakhijevan section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border is carried out by the 5th army corps, whereas Artak Davtyan, according to Edik Baghdasaryan, failed in that post because the Azerbaijanis managed to move forward their positions in the neutral zone and take control of vast territories.

Naturally, the Azerbaijanis immediately used this statement for their propaganda. The website Haqqin.az published an article titled “The Azerbaijani army has moved forward in the Nakhijevan section of the frontline.”

On May 18, newly appointed Ministers of Defense and Foreign Affairs Davit Tonoyan and Zohrab Mnatsakanyan visited the south-western border of Armenia, the Nakhichevan direction. Two days later, the Azerbaijani side announced that they have a soldier killed in shooting. The Armenian side, in its turn, stated that “Armenian armed forces have warned that the intensification of engineering works and other provocative actions cause shootings and, as a result, victims. The Armenian armed forces have repeatedly called for refraining from unnecessary tension and have warned that any destabilizing step will not remain unanswered.”

Movements of Azerbaijani positions in May

The movements that took place in the Nakhichevan section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in May have been examined by Razminfo website. The article presents satellite photos showing the movements of Azerbaijani positions in the north-eastern part of Nakhichevan in May. It is noted that all the examined cases of moving forward, the Azerbaijani positions are within the borders of former Nakhichevan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (i.e. Nakhichevan). It’s only about positioning on the heights that were not controlled by anyone.

According to the study, during the period from May 2 to 27, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces mainly advanced in the direction of Areni village gardens and the abandoned Gyunut village. Moving forward in the direction of Gyunut, the Azerbaijani side has built 5 new roads, which most likely lead to the new positions. Previously, the distance between the positions was 4.5-5 km, and now the distance between the Armenian and Azerbaijani positions has been reduced to 750-1600 meters. And according to Razminfo, the positions of the Armenian side are located in the abandoned Gyunut village.

After May 17, the Azerbaijani side undertook engineering works in the direction of Areni village, opening a new road to the east and positioning on the height located between the two Armenian positions. Razminfo stresses that the Areni village is far from the new Azerbaijani positions, and is practically inaccessible for firearms.

Humanitarian move and propaganda

The situation came to a head in early June. On June 8, the Azeri media quoted a press release by the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic Separate Army Press Service according to which after 26 years the Azerbaijani army managed to take control of Gyunut village (Junnut or Hunot) in the Sharur region of Nakhichevan, “which was occupied by Armenian armed groups in 1992.” Referring to the press service of the same Separate Army of the Army, Kavkazsky Uzel (Кавказский Узел) website wrote that the Azerbaijani side has regained control over the village of Gyunut and adjacent heights.

Meanwhile, the Armenian side has provided a totally different description of the events. On June 9, spokesperson for the RA Defense Ministry Artsrun Hovhannisyan informed on his Facebook page that on June 6 and 7, the Azerbaijani side appealed to the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia, asking to allow some citizens to approach the graveyard of the southern suburbs of Gyunut village. According to Artsrun Hovhannisyan, “Being committed to humanitarian norms and constantly taking steps to alleviate tensions, the Armenian side agreed to allow peaceful residents to approach the graveyard.”

It turns out that the Azerbaijani side has taken advantage of Armenia’s humanitarian move and is trying to show that the Azeri army liberated the village of Gyunut, whereas it can be seen in all the maps available to us that Gyunut is in any case part of Nakhichevan. Simply, Armenians’ military positions did not allow and still do not allow the Azeris to approach the ruins of the village or the cemetery. That is why the Azerbaijani side appealed to the Armenian side, simultaneously spreading false information in the media, saying that the Azerbaijani army allegedly liberated 11 thousand hectares of land in the direction of Nakhichevan, got the opportunity to keep the Yerevan-Stepanakert highway under sight, and created 50 km of new engineering infrastructures.

RA Ministry of Defense denies the reports

Commenting on these news, Spokesman for the RA Defense Ministry Artsrun Hovhannisyan assured that the allegations of the Azerbaijani side do not correspond to the reality. Hovhannisyan told RFE / RL Armenian service that if Azerbaijan’s propaganda figures on “liberating” lands, villages and territories would be added together, it would turn out that Azerbaijan has liberated the whole of the Transcaucasia.

Armenians are on the top of Mount Hunot as they were before 

Before that, Artsrun Hovhannisyan had made a new Facebook post, promising to organize visits to Nakhichevan for all those who worry about the situation, where all those who want and the media as well will be able to see the Gyunut location, some positions and so on.

Soon, Armenian political scientist, head of the Armenian Institute for International and Security Affairs Styopa Safaryan informed on his Facebook page that on June 10 he joined a group of military-political experts, bloggers and journalists accompanied by RA Defense Minister spokesman Artsrun Hovhannisyan and officers of the Armenian Armed Forces, and visited border positions to check the disinformation spread by Azerbaijani propaganda. In his words, our Armenian positions and soldiers are on the top of Hunut (Gyunut) Mountain (as previously), the abandoned Hunut (Gyunut) village is “under our position”, and is not populated as it wasn’t before. And the sand bags that the Azerbaijani would like to turn into firepoints are directly “under the fist” of our soldiers.

 

Aram Sargsyan

Union of Informed Citizens


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