The Azerbaijani Armed Forces have been developing their advance on Armenian positions in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region. As in the previous several days, the main clashes are taking place in the southern part of Karabakh.
As of October 16, Azerbaijani forces finally took full control of the town of Hadrat and started an operation to push the remaining Armenian units out of the town’s surroundings. Despite this, Armenian forces still conduct regular counter-attacks attempting to force the Azerbaijani military to retreat from their recently captured positions.
The Azerbaijani side employs its advantage in artillery and air power. Azerbaijani special forces also conducted several raids in the rear of Armenian positions in the south of Karabakh trying to create chaos there.
The town of Fuzuli, which for the previous days remained in the contested area, is now about to fall in the full control of Azerbaijan. If Armenian forces are not able to gain back the initiative, this will become the inevitable.
Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry of Azerbaijan announced that the Armenians tried to recapture several positions taken by Azerbaijani forces, but these attacks were repelled. According to Baku, a large number of Armenian forces, including two T-72 battle tanks, a Tor-M2KM surface-to-air missile system, four BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launchers, a D-20 howitzer, a D-30 howitzer, and two D-1 howitzers, as well as several vehicles and UAVs were eliminated.
On the morning of October 15, videos filmed in the area of Hadrut appeared online showing how Azerbaijani troops had captured two Armenian fighters, one of them was an old man (he does not even seem to be able to hold arms), then tied them with Armenian flags and had them killed. A few hours after, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry released a statement claiming that Armenians share in social media some ‘fake videos’ that are ‘not related’ to the Karabakh conflict.
Earlier, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and top Turkish officials repeatedly claimed that the Azerbaijani advance on Nagorno-Karabakh poses no threat to the Armenian population there. Nonetheless, actions like on the aforementioned videos as well as almost no reports about captured Armenian soldiers demonstrate that in fact the conflict creates a real threat of ethnic cleansing of the Armenian population in Karabakh the areas captured by Azerbaijan. In its own turn, the Armenian Defense Ministry claims that despite some ‘tactical retreats’, its forces have been successfully repelling Azerbaijani attacks.
This just week only, the Armenian side claimed that its forces had shot down 3 SU-25 warplanes and multiple UAVs of Azerbaijan. Dozens of Azerbaijani armoured vehicles and hundreds of troops were also allegedly eliminated. Nonetheless, photo and video evidence from the ground demonstrates that in fact Armenian forces are on retreat and are now trying to regroup and prevent further advances of Azerbaijan into the contested region.
Taking into account the current complex diplomatic situation in the region, the Azerbaijani military has all chances to continue its active offensive operations until the start of winter. After this, Baku will likely temporarily halt the military phase of its push to capture Karabakh and return to the negotiating table to force Armenia to surrender the region. If this does not happen, the Azerbaijani advance will likely be resumed in the spring of 2021.
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*All posts on behalf of South Front are made by Gordon Duff