Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on Wednesday his country’s military forces have suffered “numerous casualties” in clashes against Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory in recent weeks.
“I bow to all our victims, martyrs, their families, their parents and especially their mothers, and I consider their loss my loss, my personal loss, the loss of my family,” Pashinyan said in a nationally televised address.
“We all need to know that we are facing a difficult situation,” he added.
Despite “losses of manpower and equipment,” Pashinyan claimed that Armenian forces were still largely in control of the fighting and had inflicted “numerous losses of manpower and equipment on the enemy,” referring to Azerbaijan.
“This is not a statement of despair or desperation. I provide this information because I am committed to tell our people the truth,” the prime minister explained.
“We must win, we must live, we must build our history, and we are building our history, our new epic, our new heroic battle,” he asserted.
Nagorno-Karabakh is ruled by a separatist government comprised of ethnic Armenians who have declared the region the Republic of Artsakh; this means that Armenia, though an Artsakh-ally, does not directly govern the region. Armenia does not recognize Artsakh as a sovereign state.
Nagorno-Karabakh’s military officials said on Tuesday that “16 servicemen were killed, bringing the total number of dead among troops to 532 since September 27” when clashes over the disputed region broke out.
“Azerbaijan hasn’t disclosed its military losses, and the overall toll is likely to be much higher with both sides regularly claiming to have inflicted significant military casualties,” the Associated Press noted on Tuesday.
“Azerbaijani authorities said 42 civilians have been killed on their side since the start of the fighting. Nagorno-Karabakh human rights ombudsman Artak Beglaryan late Monday reported at least 31 civilian deaths in the breakaway region in the past two weeks. Hundreds have been wounded,” according to the report.
Nagorno-Karabakh belongs legally to Muslim Azerbaijan but is inhabited by a majority of ethnic Armenian Christians. Armenian separatists seized the region from Baku in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union in a war that killed at least 30,000 people. A 1994 ceasefire ended the war, but sporadic skirmishes between the two sides near the disputed region have continued ever since. The most recent fighting over the past three weeks has already surpassed any previous clashes since 1994 in terms of casualties and intensity. Turkey supports Azerbaijan, with its ethnically Turkic population in the conflict, while Russia, a close ally of Armenia, has called for both sides to immediately cease hostilities.