The Nagorno-Karabakh war has apparently been developing in the favor of the Turkish-Azerbaijani bloc. On the evening of October 29, the Armenian side confirmed that Azerbaijani troops have almost reached the second largest town in Nagorno-Karabakh – Shusha, which is located just a few km from the capital of the self-proclaimed republic – Stepanakert. Arayik Harutyunyan, the president of the republic, called on Armenians to take arms to defend their homeland.
“Shusha is not just a town, it is the symbol of the determination of the Armenian people to live in their own cradle, a symbol of the victories of the Armenian people. Shusha is the beating heart of all Armenians. As the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of Artsakh, I once again call on each and every one of you to unite and defend our Shusha, our Artsakh, our national dignity,” he said.
Azerbaijani infantry reportedly outflanked defense positions of the Armenians near Hadrut and deployed about 5km from Shusha. The presence of forward units of Azerbaijani forces in such an area is another signal of the hard situation on the frontline for Armenian forces. While the Armenians have likely been able to repel the first Azerbaijani push towards the Lachin corridor, near the border with Armenia, the advancing Azerbaijani troops are still a major problem for the defenders of Karabakh on other parts of the frontline.
The Defense Ministry of the Republic of Artsakh confirmed clashes south of Shusha saying that Armenian units have been working to eliminate enemy sabotage groups. This official version of events sounds at least concerning for the defenders of the city. Independent Armenian sources report intense fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces south of the town. If the Armenians lose Shusha, this will mean that Azerbaijani forces are at the gates of the Nagorno-Karabakh capital.
Meanwhile, the Armenian Defense Ministry released its own map of the situation on the frontline. According to it, the Azerbaijani military is still far away from Shusha. Furthermore, it shows that Hadrut still mysteriously remains in the hands of Armenians forces. At the same time, the Armenian conter-attack on Qubdali that forced the Azerbaijani military to withdraw from the town turning it into a gray zone was underreported. The Armenians also denied the shooting down of two of its Su-25 warplanes claimed by the Azerbaijani military. According to Azerbaijan these warplanes “attempted to inflict airstrikes on the positions of the Azerbaijani Army in the Qubadli direction of the front” and were shot down. No visual evidence to confirm the shooting down of the Su-25s has been provided so far.
On the other hand, the Azerbaijani side released a series of videos showing successful strikes on Armenian forces in the contested region. The strikes seen in the videos targeted more than 27 posts and gatherings of Armenian troops as well as the following equipment: 5 D-20 howitzers, a D-30 howitzer, 2 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled howitzers, a BM-21 multiple rocket launcher, 2 trucks, a SUV, a P-18 Radar and a Communication center. Most of the strikes seen in the videos were carried out with Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 combat drones. The rest were apparently carried out with precision-guided rockets, like the Israeli-made ACCULAR and EXTRA, which are known to be in service with the Azerbaijani military.
By the end of October, the Turkish-Azerbaijani bloc has surely seized the strategic initiative in the conflict and overcome Armenian attempts to recapture it. Now, Baku with help from its Turkish allies are planning to deliver the devastating blow to the Armenian defenders of Karabakh. At the same time, the leadership of Armenia is still playing diplomatic games and not hurrying up to send its regular troops to assist the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh.