The following abhorrent footage is further evidence of war crimes that have taken place in the disputed region of Nagorno Karabakh which is currently in a state of conventional war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Part one of the footage shows two Armenian volunteers captured by Azeri troops in the lead up to one of the worst examples of war crimes in the conflict so far.

In part two of the video below, they are draped in the Armenian flag before being murdered in a burst of machine gunfire in what is undoubtedly an example of a blatant war crime. Warning: the footage contains graphic content.

The killings are believed to have taken place in the town of Hadrut in Nagorno Karabakh which was recently infiltrated by an Azeri special forces sabotage group as seen in the video. Armenian press has recently reported on further war crimes carried out in the town but against civilians. Our thanks to @Archer83Able on Twitter for bringing our attention to the footage.

War Crimes in the South Caucasus – 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Batya (Батя) is the founder of Reaper Feed. He is an international security advisor and a high-risk expedition leader across former and active conflict zones such as Eastern Ukraine, unrecognized post-Soviet states, the North Caucasus, and the Middle East. Batya founded Reaper Feed to provide unprecedented insight into the lesser-seen sides of human conflict and modern warfare. He is from the UK but his work means he is based in various countries around the world.