Armenia’s Defense Ministry Concealed Azerbaijani Advances Near Syunik Village

By Hovhannes Nazaretyan


Armenian outlets reported in mid-March that residents of Nerkin Hand, in the southern province of Syunik, had noticed the advance of Azerbaijani troops towards the village, into Armenian territory. The local mayor claimed Azerbaijanis had advanced up to 900 meters and set up five tents one kilometer from the village cemetery, where they had begun digging trenches.

On March 15, Armenia’s Defense Ministry denied that the opponent had advanced, and noted that Azerbaijani troops had simply returned to their positions, which they had left earlier due to dire weather conditions. Deputy Defense Minister Arman Sargsyan continued to insist the next day that Azerbaijani troops had not advanced into Armenia.

Armenia’s Human Rights Defender (Ombudsman) Kristine Grigoryan said a fact-finding mission by her office concluded that the Azerbaijani positions in the area, across the cemetery, were in fact set up in March 2022.

This prompted the Defense Ministry to put out a statement admitting that Azerbaijanis had advanced some 600 meters into Armenian territory (as measured from the Soviet-era, now de jure border). But the ministry insisted that the advance had occurred not in March, but last spring.

A #CivilNetCheck visual investigation confirmed, through the study of satellite imagery, that the new road leading to the Azerbaijani positions was built last May. This means that the advance by the Azerbaijani troops into Armenia was concealed from the public for nearly a year.

At a Q&A session with cabinet members in parliament last week, opposition deputy Anna Grigoryan and Armenia’s Defense Minister Suren Papikyan had a war of words about the reported Azerbaijani advance near the village of Nerkin Hand in the southern province of Syunik. Grigoryan pressed Papikyan on the military’s alleged inaction which made it possible for Azerbaijani troops to advance. She also questioned him on why did not warn the local residents about the advance. Papikyan strongly denied any wrongdoing or inaction on the part of his ministry and the military.

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