Twenty years ago in April 1993, the occupation of Kelbajar region caused the failure of the Popular Front government and distancing from the democratic way of development.
Occupation of Kelbajar and Lachin regions became a turning point in the development of the Armenian-Azeri conflict. For the first time a large-scale fightings were taking place beyond Nagorno Karabakh marking by this the outlines of further military failure of Azerbaijan. This failure was the consequence of military and political mistakes made by the leadership of the republic before the conflict began.
Large-scale attack on the part of Armenia had been prepared for a long time not only by military men but also by diplomats. We should remind that Armenia has never brough up the question on withdrawal of Russian troops from its territory. Russian troops were training the recruits of the Armenia`s army and were delivering hirelings for crews of tanks and military hard units , diversion groups involved in operations at the territory of Azerbaijan. In 1992 Armenian was the
first country which signed an agreement on collective security of the CIS countries and bilateral agreement with the Russian federation providing presence of the Russian troops in the region. Armenia, which occupied a considerable part of Azerbaijan by March 1993, was skilfully manipulating speculations on self-determination of \”people of Karabakh\” and was preparing the public opinion to new acts of aggression.
But political circles of Azerbaijan were wasting time and did not reacted to those events. In December 1992 Armenia occupied eight villages in Zangelan region which does not have borders with Nagorno Karabakh. The world did not condemn that aggression. Azerbaijan did
not obtain the dicussion of this question at the session of the UN Security Council. And slightest success of its army was used by the opposite side for starting of the next anti-Azeri hysteria and
increase of military potential.
As a result of summer campaign of 1992 the Azeri army managed to achieve success only in the north of Karabakh and to take under its control the road which was of strategic importance
Ter-Ter-Agdere-Kelbajar. Almost the whole part of Lachin region turned to be under the control of the Armenian troops and so-called \”humanitarian corridor\” was widened to 30 kilometres. Armenia was concerned over functioning of Ter-Ter-Kelbajar road , by which military forces of Azerbaijan were delivering to Lachin and Kelbajar regions force and food. The Azeri army had the opportunity to attack Lachin and to block the only road connecting Armenia with high part
of Karabakh. And it was clear that Armenia will try to take under the control the Ter-Ter-Agdere-Kelbajar road.
After the Azeri army failed to break the defence line of the enemy on the part Vanklu-Arachadzor-Sikhavend-Farrukh in January 1993, the Armenian troops started the counter attack on 5 February in the north of Karabakh and managed to take the initiative in the front and kept
it till December 1993. They managed to restore control over Sarsang water reservoir and part of Ter-Ter-Kelbajar road and to approach to Agdere city. The next strategically attractive target was very vulnerable Kelbajar region.
On the eve of the attack of this region there was unfavourable situation for the army of Azerbaijan. The main forces were placed not in Kelbajar but in the defence borders in Lachin region. Though the division counting up to 3,000 people was to ensure the safety of
Kelbajar and Lachin regions , main positions were located in Lachin region. There were only 400 people along the border with Vardenis and Jermuk regions of Armenia located on 10 border posts stretching at 122 kilometres. Additional 250 people were defending the eastern part
of Kelbajar region on the side of Karabakh. So more than 600 soldiers ( 200 of them were recruits) had to withstand the attack of Armenians.
Beginning from September 1992 there were not active fightings in Kelbajar region. In January and February border posts of Kelbajar region were attacked several times on the part of Vardenis region of Armenia. On February 4 , 1993 a group of Armenian diversants managed
to get to Chiragli village which is at the territory of Kelbajar region and the Armenians became aware of the vulnerableness of its defence. The commander of the Azeri army did not make due conclusions though it had to reinforce its positions near the Agdere region and border posts. We should note than after capture of Ter-Ter-Agdere-Kelbajar road by the Armenians there was the only way connecting Lachin and Kelbajar regions with the rest part of the republic – a difficult road trough Murovdag pass. But in winter it was not possible to go through it. Command of Azeri army did not manage to rapproach the divisions from Lachin (due to mountains, long
The UN Security Council adopted four resolutions (822, 853, 874, 884) demanding the release of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan and the resumption of negotiations within the Minsk Group.
roads were covered with ice) or to transfer fresh forces from the middle of the republic ( an obstacle was the Murovdag range.)
Probably the leadership of Azerbaijan did not suppose that Armenia would start direct aggression and annexion of the lands of Nagorno Karabakh. Though the villages of Zangelan region have already been occupied. Armenia explained its relations with Azerbaijan just from the military positions supposing that the world publicity and the neighbours in the region will only formally condemn aggression.
The Armenian propaganda machine was spreading a false information as if Kelbajar city and a region with the same name were important bases providing the Azeri army. Their mass media reported that \”Kelbajar grouping of troops\” is a great threat, though there was very little
troops. Just by this, and also by suddeness the successs of Armenia is explained. This region is of startegical importance not only because it is a \”base for providing the Azeri troops\”, but because it is located berween the Karabaklh and Armenia.
Policy conducted by Russia late in 1992 and beginning of 1993 in South Caucasian region region was encouraging Armenia for capture of the Azeri lands. And the occupation of Kelbajar region took place with direct participation of Russian subdivisions. In 1992 there were only some Russian specialists and several small divisions of professional- hirelings fighting on the part of Armenia, but early in 1993 there were already strong subdivisions able to capture large populated areas. In February 1993 the attack operations by Armenians in the north of Karabakh were carried out together with subdivisions of 128 regiment of the 127 Gumri division of the Russian army located in Armenia. Fightings in Kelbajar were carried out by troops of Russian mountain special-purpose army 7. So, Russia was not neutral any more in the Armenian-Azeri conflict and was supporting Armenia, it was one of the main reasons of occupation of Kelbajar and Lachin regions of Azerbaijan.
Aggression by Armenia did not receive adequate assessment of the world publicity from the point of view of international law. The position of the UN Security Council is symptomatic. The statement of the Chairman of the Security Council expresses \”serious concern about worsening of relations between the Republic of Armenia and Republic of Azerbaijan and escalation of hostile actions in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, particularly in regard of deployment of the Armenian forces to Kelbajar region of the Republic of Azerbaijan.\” That means that real nature of the Armenian-Azeri conflict is masked and the aggression by Armenia is presented as \”interference of local Armenian forces.\” Security Council demanded to stop immediately all \”hostile actions which threaten the world and security in the region and to withdraw these forces.\” However, fulfilment of this demand was impossible: lack of principal assessment of the fact of unprecedented annexion by Armenia of the territory of Azerbaijan And by Armenia ignored demands of international organisations.
A statement of the representative of the US State Department of April 6, 1993 is similar. It condemns \”the attack of ethnic Armenian forces in Kelbajar region\” and notes that the government of the US condemns this attack and informed about its deep concern the top eshelone of the Armenian government and representatives of the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh. The fact, that in this statement Armenia is included in the context of the above mentioned events in Kelbajar region, can be treated as a positive fact.
On the background of these statements the positions of Russia and France seem more careful and close to the Armenian point of view. Moscow and Paris accent on the necessity of peaceful resolution of the conflict and distance from the assessment of aggressive actions by Armenia due to occupation of Kelbajar and Lachin regions of Azerbaijan.
Turkey and Iran demonstrated more consequent approach to those events. Their statements stress that main reason of aggravation of the Armenian-Azeri conflict was the will of Armenia to annex the territory of Azerbaijan.
P.S. The UN Security Council adopted four resolutions (822, 853, 874, 884) demanding the release of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan and the resumption of negotiations within the Minsk Group. Only the demand to resume the negotiating process was inplemented within the frameworks of unsuccessful peace mission of the Minsk Group, which, although obtained soon freezing of hostilities (Bishkek Protocol in May 1994), but was unable to provide over 20 years the basic demand of all resolutions of the UN Security Council – the immediate release of Azerbaijan’s occupied territories