This piece of combat footage was filmed on the Armenian Azerbaijani border. This was filmed back in 2017 although the region is currently engulfed in a renewed conflict between both sides as we speak. Arshak Zakaryan, his cameraman Davit and a military escort came under sniper fire as they were en route to film a military documentary. The group became pinned down by sustained sniper fire that can be heard coming closer and closer until Davit is hit by a bullet through both legs. The ordeal lasted over three and a half hours, this is a segment of the most intense part. I admire his optimism regarding his injury: “It could have been worse”.
The cameraman hit with the sniper round took his injury very well. He stayed calm and composed whilst many people, especially non-military, would have freaked out and endangered the people around him even further.
However, being shot could have been avoided had he listened to the advice of his highly composed Armenian military escort who was calmly laying down covering fire with his Kalashnikov until help arrived. The military escort made his objective criteria clear and advised him where to take cover in order to make it harder to kill them. Despite the escort communicating threats to the cameraman concerning the bend in the road, he went Maverik and was subsequently shot.
They broke both of my legs, but fuck ’em.– Davit
Another faux par in the video is the cameraman wearing military fatigues despite being in a journalist role. This is something I’ve personally seen being done by independent journalists in Donbass, Eastern Ukraine. When gunmen on the opposite front line see a camouflage-clad figure in their kill zone they will shoot first and ask questions later. Non-combatants wearing camouflage on an active front line is a beginner’s error if I ever saw one. But regardless, like most Armenians I have met, Davit is one tough man.
Why are Armenian and Azerbaijani forces fighting?
The countries of Armenia and Azerbaijan both have long-running differences that range from religion and ethnicity to politics. Azerbaijan is populated largely by Turkic Muslims which makes it a close ally of Turkey. Armenia is populated largely by Orthodox Christians and as such are more aligned to Russia and other Orthodox countries.
When the Soviet Union came along, they divided the territory between the Azerbaijani and Armenian populations, and through their oppressive nature, they kept a lid on ethnic tensions. However, they unwittingly planted the seed for future conflicts as they did in other parts of the USSR such as Donbass, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Transnistria.
The modern conflict between Armenian people and Azerbaijani nations stems from a region called Nagorno-Karabakh. During the collapse of the Soviet Union, the strategic region of Nagorno-Karabakh was claimed by both Armenia and Azerbaijan. Around the same time, the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh had held a referendum boycotted by Azerbaijan where the people chose independence instead of joining either of the two countries.
Nagorno Karabakh was populated by equally large numbers of both Armenian and Azerbaijani people. As the situation worsened, both sides accused the other of calling for the ethnic cleansing of the other side within Nagorno Karabakh. This led to the large Armenian population voting to join Armenia and subsequently led to a civil war that killed thousands of people displaced many more.
By the spring of 1994, Russia had stepped in to negotiate a ceasefire and ethnically Armenian controlled Nagorno Karabakh became one of the four frozen conflict zones that are dotted across the former Soviet Union (the others being Transnistria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia). Azerbaijan, however, still claims that the territory is theirs and since then there has been a string of violence and ceasefire violations such as the one in this video and the conflict currently taking place.
The South Caucasus is home to a network of oil and gas pipelines and strategic roads. If a full-scale war was to break out this would either block or interrupt these much-needed supply routes. Many believe that as this would create serious challenges for both Armenia and Azerbaijan, a full-scale war is not in the interest of both countries. Thus, we should hope that this skirmish, like the ones before it, fades out soon.
For unfiltered, uncensored combat footage from the heart of human conflict around the world be sure to check out the Reaper Feed Combat Footage department. For our on the ground reportage from global warzones check out our Frontline Dispatch articles.