Fierce fighting has broken out between Azerbaijan and Armenian separatists in the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.
The separatists, who have controlled the enclave since 1994, announced Sunday morning that Azerbaijani forces had bombed both the front line and the town of Stepanakert.
They also said they had shot down two Azerbaijani combat helicopters and three drones after the bombing began.
A few hours later, the separatist presidency declared full military mobilization and announced that there was now a state of emergency where the region’s martial law applies.
The government of Azerbaijan, for its part, said that the Armenian separatists attacked first, and that it was a counter-offensive.
Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pasjinian has published a post on Facebook where it becomes clear that Armenia is also mobilizing the entire defense.
Dead and wounded
Both parties say that civilian lives have been lost in what are the toughest battles between the two parties in several years.
There have been reports of dead and wounded among civilians and soldiers, it is said in a message from the president’s office in Azerbaijan.
The Ministry of Defense in Baku claims that it is a “counter-offensive” that will ensure the security of the population and end Armenia’s “combat activity”.
Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pasjinian, for his part, is trying to call for unity and fighting spirit.
– Let us stand firm behind our state, our army, and we will win. Long live the Armenian army, it is said in the message on Facebook.
Russia calls for a ceasefire
Since a ceasefire in 1994, ethnic Armenian separatists have taken control of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but where large sections of the population are Armenians.
Prior to this, a six-year war had claimed 30,000 lives, while about 800,000 Azerbaijanis were forced to flee.
The conflict is one of the worst in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Both France, Russia and the United States have tried to mediate as part of the so-called “Minsk group”, but the last attempt broke down in 2010.
Azerbaijan, which is rich in oil, has spent large sums of money on arming itself militarily and has promised to recapture Nagorno-Karabakh by force.
Armenia has announced that it will then defend the territory, which the separatists have declared independent, but which is heavily dependent on Armenia’s support.
Russia is asking Azerbaijan and Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh to lay down their arms immediately.
– We ask the parties to immediately stop the shooting and initiate talks to stabilize the situation, it is stated in a statement from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.