Armenia has declared martial law and total military mobilization following reignited clashes with Azerbaijani forces over the disputed Nagorno–Karabakh region. Armenia has accused neighboring Azerbaijan of carrying out air and artillery attacks on Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed territory recognized as part of Azerbaijan but controlled by ethnic Armenians.
The area in south-eastern Europe has been the subject of conflict for decades between the two countries, which were both part of the Soviet Union until the bloc’s collapse in 1991.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry said it downed two Azerbaijani helicopters, with Azerbaijan accusing Armenia’s army of attacking civilians and warning that Armenia is “preparing for a new act of aggression and war.”
On Sunday, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan confirmed that martial law has been declared in the country and urged those in the Nagorno–Karabakh region to seek refuge in shelters, Reuters reported.
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“I urge the staff attached to the troops to present their territorial military commissions,” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan wrote on Facebook. “For the sake of the homeland, for the sake of victory.”
“Be ready to protect our holy homeland. Proud, winning people,” Pashinyan added.
As well as the two helicopters, Armenia claims to have shot down three drones, and destroyed three tanks in response to attacks in settlements, including the regional capital of Stepanakert.
“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.
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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia (MFA) added that they “strongly condemn the aggression of the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan” in a statement.
“The Armenian sides will act confidently with all their capacities to ensure the security of the people of Artsakh and to deliver appropriate military and political response. The military political leadership of Azerbaijan bears full responsibility for the consequences of their aggression,” the MFA added.
There are unconfirmed reports that an Armenian woman and child have been killed during the clashes.
Azerbaijan have also blamed Armenia for the outbreak of conflict, accusing the country “blatantly violating the ceasefire” established in 1994 by launching a “bombardment” of attacks in densely populated civilian areas.
HikmetHajiyev, a spokesperson for the Azerbaijani presidency, said that Azerbaijan launched a “necessary counter offensive to suppress Armenia’s combat activity and ensure the safety of the population.”
“There are reports of dead and wounded among civilians and military servicemen,” Hajiyev added.
In a TV address, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev also claimed the country had experienced civilian death at the hands of the Armenian “bombardment” while denying the deaths of the opposing side.
“Armenia has been consciously provoking Azerbaijan, and they will see the bitter results of this,” Aliyev said. “Armenia is an occupying country, and an end must be put to this occupation and an end will be put to it.”
There have been renewed conflicts in recent months in the region, including 16 that were reportedly killed in July.
In 2016, at least 200 people died during fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan which lasted four days.