Truth and Reality Of Karabakh War


28 May 04

Azerbaijan Made Additional Weapons Purchases in Ukraine and Turkey,
and Hired Some 2,500 Mercenaries in Afghanistan

In April 2003 British NGO Safer World, funded by British and other
European government agencies and foundations, published a study
entitled “The Caucasus: Armed and Divided – small arms and light
weapons proliferation and humanitarian consequences.”

The study includes individual sections on Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh
both authored by Gagik Avagian of the Yerevan-based Cooperation and
Development NGO and Azerbaijan by Arif Yunusov of the Baku-based
Institute for Peace and Democracy, as well as an overview by Maxim
Pyadushkin of the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Strategies
and Technologies.

The study focuses on proliferation of former Soviet Army’s weapons
in the Caucasus, and in the process debunks the widely held belief of
“Russian support for Armenia” during the NK war. Some of Pyadushkin’s
key arguments include: During the division of Soviet military
property in 1992, overseen by the Russian government, Armenia was
at a disadvantage because fewer Soviet forces were based in Armenia
than in either Georgia or [especially] Azerbaijan. According to
Yunusov, by late 1991, Soviet army units in Azerbaijan, excluding the
airborne division, held 309 tanks, 599 other armor, and 387 pieces of
artillery; in all 15% more than in Armenia. Soviet air forces based
in Azerbaijan had 124 combat aircraft, 50 transportation aircraft and
24 combat helicopters; [there were virtually none in Armenia]. Baku
had a garrison of 11,500 soldiers at Salyan barracks and a Higher
Military School. Together with 6000 sailors at the naval base at
Nargin, there were 62,000 Soviet military personnel in Azerbaijan,
which included 12,000 ethnic Azeris. Armenia inherited two out of
three army divisions stationed on its territory (most of the third
division remains under Russian control to date) and no Air Force
units; Azeris inherited nearly all of the equipment of the four
army and one airborne division, parts of the four Air Force units,
as well as a portion of the Caspian fleet.

Armenia received about 500 wagons (one wagon equals 38m3)
of ammunition, with Azeris receiving 11,000 wagons, more than 20
times as much. According to Yunusov, Azerbaijan inherited 7,000-wagon
strategic ammunition depot at Giliazi/Sumgait (which was fully acquired
by the field commander Suret Husseinov who bribed the local Russian
commander), two district depots at Agdam and Nasosny with 1,100 each
(Aghdam depot, inc. 728 wagons with artillery shells, 245 wagons with
missiles and 131 vagons with small arms ammo, was inherited by Azeris
for free) and four divisional depots at Guzdek, Ganja, Lenkoran and
Nakhichevan with 150-200 wagons.

Azerbaijan received one and a half times more small arms (machine guns,
grenade launchers, etc.; according to Yunusov at least 90,000 in all)
than Armenia and Georgia together. According to Avagian, the Armenian
side experienced shortages in weapons and ammunition throughout the
war, with some military operations conducted just to capture arms
from the Azeris.

Azerbaijan received considerably more than its share of heavy arms
under CFE limitations set at 220 tanks, 220 other armor and 280
artillery; while Armenia, at least initially, received considerably
less. According to Col. Ayaz Mamedov, late Azeri Gen. Baba Nazarli in
mid-June 1992 [at the time of the Azeri offensive in NK] bribed the
commander of the 23rd division (Ganja) Gen. Yuri Pakhomov to acquire
the division’s entire arsenal together with tank crews. According to
the Azeri Defense Ministry, by August 1992 Azerbaijan received 307
tanks, 449 other armor, 130 mortars, 33 MLRS “Grad”, 2,000 machine
guns, 57,000 submachine guns and 17,000 pistols. According to Russian
commanders, in total Azerbaijan inherited 325 tanks, 789 units of other
armor, and 458 pieces of artillery. According to Yunusov, in spite
of the huge arsenal it inherited, Azerbaijan made additional weapons
purchases in Ukraine and Turkey, and hired some 2,500 mercenaries
in Afghanistan (while most of them went on to fight in Chechnya and
Yugoslavia, at least 400 stayed in Azerbaijan after the war leading
to increase in the Islamic Jihadi activity in Azerbaijan).

Russia and individual Russian commanders are believed to have sold
additional weapons to Armenia, NKR and Azerbaijan during and after the
war, although no concrete figures are available. According to Avagian,
Nagorno Karabakh made direct purchases from Russian military units
stationed throughout the FSU and some Armenian officers claim that
NKR army’s weapons holdings are kept secret even from Yerevan.

By mid-92, 40,000 people had been mobilized into the Azeri army,
more than half of them deployed in Karabakh. Additionally there
were 4,000 in OMON and 7,000 in mostly XCP volunteer detachments. In
September-October 1992, Elchibey amnestied 701 criminals (including
murderers and rapists), willing to fight in NK. According to then
Interior Minister Hamidov (quoted in Zerkalo, 28 June, 2002), 60
of them were killed in action, 120 were wounded and over a dozen
decorated with government awards. However, a large number of those
released deserted leading to increase in crime rate. In mid-93, Aliyev
disbanded 33 pro-Elchibey battalions, numbering up to 7,000 people.

Prepared by Tatoul Hakobian