Armenian army chief alleges Azerbaijani ‘atrocities’ at briefing for diplomats in Jermuk

By Mark Dovich

Edvard Asryan, the chief of the general staff of Armenia’s armed forces, led a briefing Friday with a number of foreign ambassadors, diplomats, and military attachés posted to Armenia in the town of Jermuk, which was heavily shelled by Azerbaijan this week.

“Currently, units of the Azerbaijani armed forces are located 4.5 kilometers from the outskirts of Jermuk,” Asryan told the diplomats.

He added that Armenian authorities have in their possession photo and video evidence of alleged “atrocities” committed by Azerbaijani soldiers, including a video that appears to show Azerbaijani troops stripping and dismembering a woman soldier from Armenia.

Asryan told the diplomats some of the photos and videos were so disturbing that “people may not even be able to watch.”

Diplomats from Argentina, China, the European Union, France, Georgia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States were among those who took part in the briefing, the Armenpress news agency reported. Representatives from the Russian embassy in Yerevan did not attend.

Jermuk, a renowned mountain spa town in Armenia’s southeastern Vayots Dzor region, was among the first communities to come under Azerbaijani attack shortly after midnight Tuesday. It was heavily shelled in ensuing clashes that lasted on and off until a fragile ceasefire was reached Wednesday evening.

Armen Pambukhchyan, Armenia’s Minister of Emergency Situations, said Friday that a popular cable car in Jermuk and a nearby reservoir were among several pieces of civilian infrastructure in the area that had been hit. A number of public and private buildings in the town were also damaged by shelling, he said.

At a United Nations Security Council meeting Thursday, Mher Margaryan, Armenia’s permanent representative to the UN, said: “The shelling of the resort town of Jermuk, which has absolutely no military targets, is nothing short of a war crime. And so are the strikes against the Kechut water reservoir, with a potentially catastrophic human toll and environmental impact.”

Russia’s decision not to send embassy staff to Jermuk garnered much attention in Armenia, where it was seen in a broader pattern of attempts by the Kremlin this week to appear more or less balanced in the conflict.

At the UN Security Council, French and U.S. representatives were among a number of diplomats who called out Azerbaijan for its role in this week’s hostilities more forcefully than during past rounds of fighting, while Russia’s representative issued a more measured statement.

A small number of Armenian citizens attempted to gather in front of the Russian embassy in central Yerevan Friday to protest “against Russia’s indifference and neutrality,” but police immediately detained them.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Friday revised Armenia’s death toll in the clashes up to 135, while Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry raised its combat losses on Thursday to 71. Those figures make this week the bloodiest in the region since the outbreak of the war in and around Karabakh nearly two years ago.

A ceasefire reached by Armenia and Azerbaijan that came into effect at 8 p.m. Wednesday appeared to continue to hold as of 9 a.m. Friday, Armenia’s Defense Ministry said.

Also watch (in Armenian): Jermuk: The consequences of Azerbaijani shelling

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