Artsakh parliament nominates new president

A session of the Artsakh parliament (Artsakh Republic National Assembly, August 7)

The latest bloodshed in Armenia comes amidst a major political and military shake-up in Artsakh.

Following weeks of swirling speculation about his political future, Arayik Harutyunyan handed in his resignation on September 1, stating that the ongoing blockade suggests there must be a change in Artsakh’s political approach. “In order to achieve that, we must change the main actors in Artsakh, starting with me,” said Harutyunyan.

Prior to his resignation, Harutyunyan endorsed the resignations of State Minister Gurgen Nersisyan and Advisor to the State Minister Artak Beglaryan. Following Nersisyan’s resignation, Samvel Shahramanyan, the Secretary of the Security Council, was appointed as the new State Minister of Artsakh.

Opposition factions ARF, “Ardarutyun” and NDP of the National Assembly of the Republic of Artsakh nominated newly appointed State Minister Samvel Shahramanyan for the position of president. The National Assembly will carry out the election of the president on September 9.

These political changes in Artsakh come amid military escalations along Armenia’s border.

On the morning of September 1, the Azerbaijan armed forces opened fire from different caliber small arms against Armenian combat positions in the vicinity of the Armenian village of Sotk in the Gegharkunik province. The Ministry of Defense of Armenia said that the Azerbaijani armed forces also used mortars in the same direction. Armenian authorities say that Azerbaijan disseminates misinformation that Armenia has launched provocations to lay the foundation for an escalation. 

“The Azerbaijani propaganda is disseminating disinformation that the Armenian Armed Forces are concentrating a large number of weapons, military equipment and personnel in Sotk.

By disseminating such false information, the Azerbaijani side creates an informational basis to continue yet another provocation that began this morning in the direction of Sotk,” the Armenian MoD said. 

Armenia’s biggest gold mine is located in Sotk, where all operations have been suspended indefinitely due to shelling by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces. Seven hundred people who work at the mine have been placed on unpaid leave. 

Around noon the same day, the Azerbaijani armed forces also fired towards the Armenian outposts near Norabak, also in Gegharkunik.

As a result of the Azerbaijani provocation, the Armenian side had three deaths – soldiers Andranik Arshak Antonyan, Arsen Aleksandr Mkrtichyan and Vachagan Saro Vardanyan – and two injuries.

On the night of September 2, the Azerbaijani side opened fire on the Kapan airport in the Syunik province. Three shots were fired, two of which hit the outer walls of the airport’s arrivals hall and control room and damaged furniture. There were no casualties as a result of the shooting. The Syunik Regional Investigation Department has opened a criminal case on the grounds of attempted murder.

Firing on the Syunik airport began on August 18, a day after Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan took the first flight from Yerevan to Kapan and announced the commencement of regular flights to and from Kapan. In the early hours of the day of the PM’s arrival, an unidentified Azerbaijani vehicle approached the airport and fired three shots, causing damage to an airport window and the roof structure.

On September 3, at around 1:40 a.m., Azerbaijani armed forces units fired from firearms towards the Armenian combat outposts near Kutakan in Gegharkunik. 

On the eve of September 5, units of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces opened fire on Armenian positions located in Kut, Gegharkunik.

As provocations continue on the border and on social media with the spread of misinformation, Armenians in over 20 countries commemorated the 32nd anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Artsakh, reaffirming their commitment to a free and independent Artsakh. 

32 years ago, the ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh exercised their right to national autonomy, enshrined in the “Regulation Governing Questions Concerning the Secession of a Union Republic from the USSR,” to decide their legal status independently in the case of a Soviet Republic’s secession from the USSR. 

On December 10, 1991, a few days prior to the official collapse of the Soviet Union, a referendum was held where an overwhelming majority of the population (99.98-percent) of Artsakh voted in favor of full independence from Soviet Azerbaijan. 

32 years later, the anniversary of Artsakh’s independence became the foundation for pan-Armenian mobilization. In more than two dozen countries – Armenia, Artsakh and across the Diaspora – Armenians gathered in large numbers, protested and presented their demands: to end Azerbaijan’s blockade of Artsakh and closure of the Berdzor (Lachin) corridor. 

On the brink of possible continued escalations, Armenians across the globe turned the celebration of Artsakh’s Independence Day into an occasion for protest, rejected the dissolution procedure of the Artsakh issue and conveyed the assurance of their solidarity to the people of Artsakh.