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

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

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.


UK scientists warn too early to tell if new COVID-19 variant more deadly

UK scientists warn too early to tell if new COVID-19 variant more deadly
Updated 13 min 3 sec ago

UK scientists warn too early to tell if new COVID-19 variant more deadly

UK scientists warn too early to tell if new COVID-19 variant more deadly
  • PM Boris Johnson had previously said evidence showed higher mortality rate 
  • Top medics have said it is “too early” to say whether the variant carries with it a higher mortality rate

LONDON: The discovery of a new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) variant in the UK should not alter the response to the pandemic, scientists say, despite fears that it could prove more deadly.
Top medics have said it is “too early” to say whether the variant, thought to be up to 70 percent more transmissible, carries with it a higher mortality rate.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed there was “some evidence” the variant had “a higher degree of mortality” at a press conference on Friday, Jan. 22, with the UK’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, adding it could be up to 30 percent more deadly. 
That came after a briefing by the UK government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) said there was a “realistic possibility” of an increased risk of death.
Prof. Peter Horby, Nervtag’s chairman, said: “Scientists are looking at the possibility that there is increased severity ... and after a week of looking at the data we came to the conclusion that it was a realistic possibility.
“We need to be transparent about that. If we were not telling people about this we would be accused of covering it up.”
But infectious disease modeller Prof. Graham Medley, one of the authors of the Nervtag briefing, told the BBC: “The question about whether it is more dangerous in terms of mortality I think is still open.
He added: “In terms of making the situation worse it is not a game changer. It is a very bad thing that is slightly worse.”
Dr. Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling for the UK government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said he was “quite surprised” Johnson had made the claim.
“I just worry that where we report things pre-emptively where the data are not really particularly strong,” he added.