Azerbaijan and Armenia allege truce violations, accuse each other in shelling

Azerbaijani soldiers and firefighters try to save survivors from destroyed houses in a residential area in Ganja, Azerbaijan's second largest city. (IHA via AP)
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Updated 17 October 2020

Azerbaijan and Armenia allege truce violations, accuse each other in shelling

  • Baku said 13 civilians were killed and more than 50 wounded in the city of Ganja by an Armenian missile attack
  • Yerevan accused Azerbaijan of continued shelling

BAKU/YEREVAN: Azerbaijan and Armenia accused each other on Saturday of fresh attacks in violation of a week-old Russian-brokered truce that has failed to halt the worst fighting in the South Caucasus since the 1990s.
Baku said 13 civilians were killed and more than 50 wounded in the city of Ganja by an Armenian missile attack, while Yerevan accused Azerbaijan of continued shelling.
The fighting is the worst in the region since Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces went to war in the 1990s over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountain territory that is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.
The Azeri Prosecutor General’s office said a residential area in Ganja, the country’s second-largest city and miles away from Nagorno-Karabakh, was shelled by missile strikes and around 20 apartment buildings had been hit. Armenia denied the claim.
Baku also said that an electricity line which goes from Azerbaijan to neighboring Georgia was damaged as a result of shelling in the town of Mingachevir.
Azeri President Ilham Aliyev accused Armenia of committing a war crime by shelling Ganja.
“If the international community does not punish Armenia, we will do it,” he said.
Aliyev said the Azeri army has completely taken over two regions previously held by separatists, Fizuli and Jabrail.
“We are dominating the battlefield,” he said, adding that Azeri armed forces never targeted civilian settlements.
Aliyev also questioned Armenia’s ability to keep replacing military hardware destroyed in battles, a thinly veiled jab at Yerevan’s ally Moscow.
Armenia denied the Azeri claim that it had been bringing arms illegaly and accused Azerbaijan of acting to expand Turkey’s influence in the region and of using pro-Turkish mercenaries — charges both Ankara and Baku deny.

‘Living in fear’

In Ganja, rescuers worked at the scene on Saturday morning, picking through rubble, a Reuters photographer said. Some houses had been almost levelled. An excavator was clearing the debris.
“We have been living in fear for days ... We are suffering a lot. We would rather die. I wish we were dead but our children would survive,” one resident of the city, 58-year-old Emina Aliyeva, told reporters.
The Armenian defense ministry denied the Azeri claim on shelling cities in Azerbaijan and accused Baku of continuing to shell populated areas inside Nagorno-Karabakh, including Stepanakert, the region’s biggest city.
Three civilians were wounded as a result of Azeri fire in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian foreign ministry said.
“We woke up at 4 o’clock in the morning due to an awful blow, it was not just a strike, it was something more powerful ...We are scared, but we got used to it ... Sometimes we felt as if they were hitting directly on us,” Lika Zakaryan, 26-year-old resident of Stepanakert, told Reuters.
A Reuters cameraman in Stepanakert said he had heard several explosions on Friday night and in the early hours of the morning.
Armenia also said several Azeri drones flew over settlements in Armenia, attacked military installations and damaged the civilian infrastructure. It denied an Azeri claim to have downed an Armenian Su-25 warplane.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called attacks “an attempted genocide of the Armenian people,” telling the French newspaper Liberation, “We must defend ourselves, like any nation that is threatened with extermination.”
Turkey, which has been criticized by NATO allies for its stance in the conflict, reiterated its support for Azerbaijan.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Saturday Turkey would “always side with Azerbaijan,” while the country’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar talked to his Azeri counterpart Zakir Hasanov on the phone and congratulated him on “liberating” several settlements in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Ankara accuses Armenia of illegally occupying Azeri territory. Armenia says Turkey has encouraged Azerbaijan to pursue a military solution to the conflict, putting Armenian civilians in danger.
Baku said on Saturday that 60 Azeri civilians had been killed and 270 wounded since the fighting flared on Sept. 27. Azerbaijan has not disclosed military casualties.
Nagorno-Karabakh says 633 of its military personnel have been killed, and 34 civilians.


Danish PM in tears after visiting mink farmer whose animals were culled

Updated 26 November 2020

Danish PM in tears after visiting mink farmer whose animals were culled

COPENHAGEN: Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen broke down on Thursday when visiting a mink farmer who lost his herd following the government’s order this month to cull all 17 million mink in the country to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Frederiksen has faced opposition calls to resign and a vote of no confidence in parliament after an order by the government in early November, which it later admitted was illegal, to cull the country’s entire mink population.
The order was given after authorities found COVID-19 outbreaks at hundreds of mink farms, including a new strain of the virus, suspected of being able to compromise the efficacy of vaccines.
“We have two generations of really skilled mink farmers, father and son, who in a very, very short time have had their life’s work shattered,” Frederiksen told reporters after a meeting with a mink farmer and his son at their farm near Kolding in Western Denmark.
“It has been emotional for them, and... Sorry. It has for me too,” Frederiksen said with a wavering voice, pausing for breath in between words.
The move to cull Denmark’s entire mink population, one of the world’s biggest and highly valued for the quality of its fur, has left the government reeling after it admitted it did not have the legal basis to order the culling of healthy mink.
After a tumultuous couple of weeks since the order was given on Nov. 4, the Minister of Agriculture, Mogens Jensen, stepped down last week after an internal investigation revealed a flawed political process.
Denmark has proposed a ban on all mink breeding in the country until 2022. Tage Pedersen, head of the Danish mink breeders’ association, said this month the industry, which employs around 6,000 people and exports fur pelts worth $800 million annually, is finished.
Denmark’s opposition says the cull of healthy mink should not have been initiated before compensation plans were in place for the owners and workers at some 1,100 mink farms.