Armenia could trigger its collective defense pact with Russia, the latter which also has a sprawling military base at Gyumri in the northwest part of the country, but on Monday the Armenian Ambassador to Moscow, Vardan Toganyan, has said the escalation of fighting with Azerbaijan has not reached that point yet.
Russia’s TASS, however, has underscored that this remains a distinct possibility at a moment Armenia has reported at least 31 of its troops killed in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh border region, which it says its forces are protecting from Azerbaijan’s shelling and aggression:
According to him, Yerevan and Moscow continue to boost defense cooperation. “We believe that should the need arise, we will request Russia [for additional military assistance],” the envoy pointed out. “As of today, we don’t think that we need additional troops or other forces,” he added.
“However, we do believe that Russia has a major role in the Caucasus and is capable of using political methods to put an end to bloodshed,” Toganyan emphasized.
Putin held a phone call with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan over the situation which began this weekend in the historically restive autonomous region which though claimed by Azerbaijan (and internationally recognized as such), declared independence in 1991 as an Armenian ethnic enclave.
President Trump also weighed in, calling for an immediate halt to fighting and deescalation of tensions. Congressional leaders have also condemned the violence.
Both sides have reported civilian deaths, which each blaming the other for the beginning of weekend hostilities, which has tragically seen dozens killed.
By all accounts it’s the fiercest fighting the region has seen since the 1990s, with tanks, aircraft, and artillery units deployed and currently in direct clashes.
Azerbaijan early Monday reported blocked civilian flights from using its airports for the next two days, until at least Sept.30, amid the mobilization of military aerial assets, which include Israeli supplied drones.
Meanwhile, Reuters reports on the growing finger pointing regarding Turkey’s alleged deepening involvement on the side of Azerbaijan:
Armenia’s ambassador to Moscow said on Monday that Turkey had sent around 4,000 fighters from northern Syria to Azerbaijan and that they were fighting there, an assertion denied by an aide to Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev.
Armenia also said Turkish military experts were fighting alongside Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous breakaway region of Azerbaijan run by ethnic Armenians, and that Turkey had provided drones and warplanes.
Alarmingly, the situation could begin to mimic Syrian and Libya. In each Russia and Turkey are supporting opposite sides via proxy forces.