July 28, 2021

On the Armenian border, the soldiers face to face with the Azerbaijanis

By Faustine Vincent

Posted today at 01:22, updated at 01:31

At this altitude, the wind blows violently on the Armenian military positions, dug in the middle of the pastures. Near a shelter, a large Christian cross was drawn in the grass with stones. The senior officer points to the mountains: “See the ridge line over there?” The border with Azerbaijan is there, explains Deputy Colonel Hayk Petrossian. Everything that we see in front of us is on our territory. But the enemy entered a kilometer inside. Now we come face to face. “ You have to squint to distinguish them, but the Azerbaijani soldiers are there, on this high plateau in the Guegharkounik region, in Armenia.

Deputy Col. Hayk Petrosian speaks to the foreign press at the border near the village of Sotk, Armenia, June 18, 2021.

They’ve been stationed here for over a month. On May 12, hundreds of them entered Armenian territory, between 1 and 3 kilometers within the borders, according to Yerevan. There was no resistance to them: they simply moved and planted their flag in different places, in Guegharkounik and Siounik, claiming that it was their territory. “The problem is that the border was not defended in winter”, explains Arayik Haroutiounian, commander of the Guegharkounik army corps. This advance sowed panic in Armenia, seven months after the crushing defeat of the country against Azerbaijan in the war in Nagorno-Karabakh in the fall of 2020, and as the country prepared for the legislative elections on June 20.

An Armenian serviceman at a border checkpoint near the village of Sotk, Armenia, June 18, 2021.

For security reasons, the area is now off-limits, but the defense ministry has authorized some media, including The world, to go there on June 18, under its control. At an altitude of 2,500 meters, the car jolts through half-deserted villages, ruined kolkhozes, bypasses herds of cows, passes in front of carcasses of cars that a villager has carefully lined up to mark the limits of his land , climbs along the Sotk gold mine, and stops in front of camouflage containers held by two armed men.

The flag of Azerbaijan visible from a border checkpoint near the village of Sotk, Armenia on June 18, 2021.

On the hill, the Armenian and Azerbaijani flags fly almost side by side. “Here, everyone is on their own territory, but there, on the left, they crossed a line that they should not cross, explains Hayk Petrossian. They sometimes arrive at 50 or 60, and are armed. “

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of violating the border

Multiplication of incidents

In the days of the USSR, the border was purely administrative, and nobody paid attention to it. But, since Azerbaijan reclaimed the buffer zones around the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, the two former Soviet republics have several hundred kilometers of a common border, which is not demarcated. Yerevan accuses Baku of tracing it unilaterally, while the process requires the creation of a special commission and negotiations between the two countries, which have never had diplomatic relations.

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