YEREVAN, May 1. /ARKA/. In a statement issued today in connection with the 29th anniversary of Operation Ring (Koltso), designed by Soviet and Azerbaijani leadership to deport the Armenian population of the villages bordering then autonomous region of Nagorno-Karabakh, the Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) Foreign Ministry said that bloody operation finally turned the Azerbaijani-Karabakh conflict into a military one, launching the subsequent full-scale aggression of Azerbaijan against the Artsakh Republic.
The statement recalls that on April 30, 1991, combat helicopters and artillery were used for the first time against the civilians of Getashen and Martunashen villages in the Shahumyan region.
“Azerbaijani special police units (OMON), with the support of the Soviet internal troops and the Soviet Army, broke into Armenian villages, formally to verify the passport regime, but in reality to kill, rob and terrorize the Armenian population, followed by their deportation.
As a result of military and police actions, dozens of Armenian villages in Northern Artsakh, as well as in Shahumyan, Hadrut and Shushi districts were destroyed, nearly ten thousand people were deported, more than 100 were killed, several hundred people were taken hostage. The fate of many of them remains unknown until now.
‘It was another manifestation of the ethnic cleansing policy carried out by Azerbaijan in 1988-1991 in Sumgait, Baku and other settlements of the Azerbaijan SSR, as well as in the villages of Northern Artsakh,” the statement said.
The Foreign Ministry stated that the Armenian pogroms carried out by the Azerbaijani authorities in response to the demand of the Artsakh people to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and the subsequent military aggression against the Republic of Artsakh in 1991, which was repeated in April 2016, demonstrated that only creation and strengthening of an independent statehood can ensure the right of the people of Artsakh to live freely and safely in their homeland.
“The recognition by the international community of this reality and the international recognition of the Republic of Artsakh will become an additional deterrent against Azerbaijan’s desire to start a new war. They will ensure peace and security in the entire region of the South Caucasus,” the statement said.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict erupted into armed clashes after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s as the predominantly Armenian-populated enclave of Azerbaijan sought to secede from Azerbaijan and declared its independence backed by a successful referendum.
On May 12, 1994, the Bishkek cease-fire agreement put an end to the military operations. A truce was brokered by Russia in 1994, although no permanent peace agreement has been signed. Since then, Nagorno-Karabakh and several adjacent regions have been under the control of Armenian forces of Karabakh. Nagorno-Karabakh is the longest-running post-Soviet era conflict and has continued to simmer despite the relative peace of the past two decades, with snipers causing tens of deaths a year.
In the early hours of April 2, 2016 Azerbaijan, in gross violation of the agreements launched a large-scale offensive along the entire Line of Contact between the armed forces of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Azerbaijan, using heavy weaponry, artillery and combat aircraft. Only thanks to the decisive actions of the Defense Army, which gave a fitting rebuff, on April 5, Azerbaijan was forced to ask, as in 1994, through the mediation of the Russian Federation for the cessation of the hostilities. It has been generally maintained, despite the recurrent violations by the Azerbaijani side.