Just days after declaring a ceasefire, Azerbaijan’s health ministry has revealed that a total of 192 Azerbaijani soldiers lost their lives, with 511 more sustaining injuries during the offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Meanwhile, the Armenian health ministry informed 237 people had been wounded in the offensive by Azeri forces as well as the gas station explosion that took place earlier this week on Monday (Sep 25).
This explosion occurred as people queued to refuel their vehicles at a gas station outside Stepanakert, the regional capital. While the exact cause remains unclear, Nagorno-Karabakh presidential aide David Babayan suggested that initial information pointed to negligence as the likely cause, with sabotage being unlikely.
Azerbaijani presidential aide Hikmet Hajiyev stated that hospitals in Azerbaijan were prepared to treat victims, though it was not specified if any injured individuals had been admitted.
For decades, the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh province has been the centre of a bitter conflict between the former soviet states of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Nagorno-Karabakh came under the control of ethnic Armenian forces, backed by the Armenian military, in separatist fighting that ended in 1994. During a six-week war in 2020, Azerbaijan took back parts of Nagorno-Karabakh along with surrounding territory that Armenian forces had claimed during the earlier conflict.
The use of modern, deadly drones by the Azeri forces was dubbed as the game changer at the time which completely trashed the Armenian forces.
However, last week, Azerbaijan launched a full-scale attack on the region to reclaim complete control of the breakaway region, occupied by Armenian separatists for about 30 years.
As Azeri troops increased the intensity, the separatist troops agreed to lay down arms and brought the conflict to an end in a rather timid way. Subsequently, Azerbaijan lifted a 10-month blockade of the road linking the territory to Armenia.
The road blockade had led to severe shortages of essential supplies, including food, medicine, and fuel. Despite Azerbaijan’s commitment to respecting the rights of Armenians, many residents remain apprehensive about potential repercussions. A mass displacement is already underway as more than a third of the region’s population has already left.
Azerbaijan and separatist officials have held two rounds of talks on the “reintegration” of Nagorno-Karabakh and its ethnic Armenian population into the mainly Muslim country, but how exactly it would happen remains unclear.
Since Baku’s operation, Armenian leader Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has faced mounting pressure and criticism. The police have arrested over 100 protesters as anti-government protests continue across Yerevan.