A Russian-brokered humanitarian ceasefire in occupied Karabakh has been under severe strain, a day after it was agreed, with Azerbaijan saying that shelling by Armenian forces on its second-largest city killed at least nine civilians and wounded dozens.
The Armenian missile attack on Azerbaijan’s Ganja city came during the early hours of Sunday, killing nine people including four women, the Prosecutor General’s Office in Azerbaijan said in a statement.
As many as 34 others – among them 16 women and six children – were wounded, it said, adding, Armenian attacks have so far destroyed 1,165 houses, 57 buildings, and 146 public buildings.
“The Armenian side aims to recapture the liberated territories. Armenia’s political-military leadership bears responsibility for perpetrated crimes. The Azerbaijani side will give a befitting retaliation!” President Ilham Aliyev said on Twitter.
His spokesperson Hikmet Hajiyev said Armenian forces also attacked the civilian population and critical energy infrastructure in Mingachevir city.
He called the attacks Armenia’s “policy of vandalism and barbarism” against Azerbaijani civilians, and “an act of genocide.”
There has been an exchange of fire near Azerbaijani front lines in Tartar area in violation of the humanitarian ceasefire, TRT World’s Sara Firth reported.
She said the shaky truce between both sides “is under threat of not holding” after missile attacks on Ganja city by Armenia.
A Reuters photographer in Ganja saw rescue workers carrying one dead person from the ruins of the apartment building on Sunday morning. The structure had been almost levelled. An excavator was clearing the debris.
Buildings and cars in the immediate vicinity had also been severely damaged.
“A loud noise was heard twice. The house was shaken and everything began to collapse. Windows, glass, everything was destroyed. My mother got a head injury. My feet were cut by broken glass,” Isa Rzayev, a wounded resident said.
Baku says more than 40 civilians had been killed and 200 wounded since the start of the conflict.
Azerbaijan also reported that the Armenian forces attacked in the direction of Hadrut and Jabrayil overnight in order to reoccupy their lost positions, but those attacks were prevented by Azerbaijan’s army.
Press Armenia, Turkey asks Russia
On Sunday, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu asked his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, to press Armenia to abide by the terms of the Russian-brokered truce, the Turkish foreign ministry said.
The ceasefire, clinched after marathon talks in Moscow advocated by President Vladimir Putin, was meant to halt fighting to allow Armenian forces in occupied Karabakh and Azerbaijani forces to swap prisoners and war dead.
Turkey said the attack on Ganja city harmed the truce and was a “clear reflection of an occupier with an aggressive mindset.”
The ministry said the attack on Ganja – some 100 kilometers away from the conflict zone – “is the latest example of the provocations of Armenian administration to widen the conflict outside of the Azerbaijani territories under occupation.”
“It is time for the international community to say stop to this lawlessness.”
The two sides agreed to implement a ceasefire on humanitarian grounds from noon on Saturday (0800GMT), after 11 hours of talks in Moscow, for exchanges of prisoners and bodies.
Azerbaijan’s Foreign MinisterJeyhun Bayramov said that the ceasefire would only last for as long as it took for the Red Cross to arrange the exchange of the dead.
The latest outburst of fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces began on September 27 and left hundreds of people dead in the biggest escalation of the decades-old conflict over occupied Karabakh.
Relations between the two former Soviet republics have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military occupied Upper Karabakh.
Recent clashes began when Armenian forces targeted Azerbaijani settlements and military positions in the region.
Four UN Security Council and two UN General Assembly resolutions, as well as many international organisations, demand the withdrawal of the occupying Armenian forces.