CCTV footage from a quiet street in the town of Ganja in western Azerbaijan captures the moment a man walking down the street is forced to dive for cover as Armenian bombardment explodes all around him. The footage is from the currently ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno Karabakh.
The strike in Ganja is one of many that has occurred in the conflict of conventional warfare that has been raging since the 27th of September and drawing in international involvement. Primarily from Turkey who is providing military assistance to Azerbaijan. Russia became involved whilst negotiating a fragile humanitarian ceasefire between the two sides. However, there are reports that fighting has resumed regardless with both sides accusing the other of violating the treaty.
The strike in Ganja – 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.