The War of 1991-1994
From the beginning of 1991 Azerbaijan embarked on attacking the Armenian population of both the Nagorno Karabakh region and also the Shahoumian district. The Azerbaijani television broadcast President of Azerbaijan Ajaz Mutalibov’s edict on the introduction of presidential ruling in NKAO and the Azerbaijani districts adjacent to it. In the district there appeared leaflets containing an ultimatum demand that the Armenian people should leave the bounds of Nagorno- Karabakh at the earliest possible date.
On January 14, the Azerbaijani Supreme Soviet Presidium took a decision to unite two neighboring districts, the Armenian Shahoumian and Azerbaijani Kasum-Ismailov, into one under the name Geranboy. The aim of the Azerbaijani leadership was obvious- to liquidate another Armenian district, deporting its indigenous inhabitants and repopulating the Armenian villages with Azeris. By that time the Shahumian district had twenty thousand inhabitants, 82%of whom were Armenians.
On January 22, at Stepanakert Airport OMON, the Special Forces of Azerbaijan, refused entry to a group of deputies from the R.S.F.S.R. Supreme Soviet who had arrived to study the situation. The deputies had arrived under the instructions of the Russian Supreme Soviet and were sent back to Baku.
The situation in Nagorno Karabakh and adjacent Armenian districts became tense.One such action that gave rise to deterioration in the region was Operation Ring. This punitive act taken against the Armenians in late April and early May of 91 involved the forces of the USSR Ministry of the Interior together with Azerbaijani special militia detachments. On the pretext of a passport "check" an unprecedented action of state terror was carried out with the aim of destroying the brain-center of the Movement and annihilating the national unity. The first victims became the villagers of Getashen and Martunashen of the Khanlar district of Azerbaijan. The male population was taken out in an unknown direction where a "passport check" took place accompanied with brutality, looting, and robbery. During three days the population of 24 Karabakh villages was subjected to similar treatment and deportation. Two of the villages were in the Khanlar district, three in the Shahumian district, fifteen in the Hadrut district and four in the Shushi district. As a result of these actions in Karabakh and in near- border of Armenia more than 100 people were killed and several hundred more were taken hostages.
On April 24, the Armenian Supreme Soviet Chairman directed a letter to the USSR leadership with the request to take urgent measures for protecting and ensuring security guarantees of the Armenian population of the district. On May 3, the Armenian Party organization’s active members addressed President of the USSR M. Gorbachev with the same request. On May 4, the meetings of President of Armenia L.Ter-Petrossian with M.Gorbachev and President of Russia B.Yeltsin took place, but they did not produce a statement following the meeting. The USSR MVD (Interior Ministry) troops with the Azerbajani OMON continued to conduct their punitive operations. It was evident that the trend of developments was leading to a wide-scale war.
On May 6, the USSR Supreme Soviet discussed the demands of Armenia to convene the congress of the USSR people’s deputies in connection with the rapidly deteriorating situation within NKAO and the downturn in Armenian-Azerbaijani relations. The decision was taken to continue discussions of the problem at the Commission of the Soviet of Nationalities of the USSR Supreme Soviet. Meanwhile, on the same day 700 Armenian refugees were taken from Getashen to Stepanakert by the military helicopters.
The rally, planned by public organizations in Stepanakert on May 7, was prohibited by the military commandant’s office.The day before armored troop carriers were traveling about the town with loud-speakers, notifying the people that weapons would be used in case of insubordination.
As a result of the critical situation in Nagorno Karabakh the executive committee of the district Soviet announced both locally and to the world in general that they had declared state of emergency in the district. On the same day the executive committee addressed the UN and the leadership of a number of countries with the request to save the Armenian people of NKAO from physical extermination and grant them political asylum.
On July 19, 1991 the enlarged session of the district Soviet executive committee was held at which measures on the stabilization of the political and economic situation in the district were discussed. The leadership took the decision to restore the authorities of the NKAO People’s Deputies Soviet, conduct new elections of the district Soviet, formulate a survival program for Artsakh and thoroughly prepare for armed resistance against Azerbaijan. A representative delegation for conducting negotiations with the Azerbaijani leadership was created. As a result of these negotiations in Baku a temporary peace was established.
On June 24, the NKAO delegation left for Moscow to meet with the Soviet leadership to consider the problem of restoring the functions of the district bodies’ power and a possible dialogue with the Azerbaijani side on the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh situation. On June 29, the USSR vice-president G.Yanaev approved the initiative and promised to promote the dialogue and peaceful resolution of the Karabakh problem. The efforts of the NKAO delegation to meet the USSR President M. Gorbachev failed. On the same day the NKAO representatives were received by the Supreme Soviet Chairman A. Lukyanov, who expressed the opinion about the necessity of restoring the district Soviet of People’s Deputies and promised to send the Supreme Soviet delegation to Nagorno- Karabakh to study the situation. Meetings were also held with the USSR Defense Ministry D. Yazov, Internal Affairs Minister B. Pugou, Deputy Prosecutor General Trubin, and the former USSR Foreign Minister E. Shevardnadze. But all yielded little in terms of practical results.
The Azerbaijani leadership continued its policy of deportation of the Armenian population, justifying this deportation as voluntary departures. These actions were accompanied with atrocities, including torture, murder, looting, banditry, brutality and violence.
On July 19th a session of the Nagorno Karabakh district Soviet of People’s Deputies discussed the beginning of a dialogue with the Azerbaijani side on a peaceful settlement of the conflict. On July 20th the NKAO delegation held a meeting with President of Azerbaijan A. Mutalibov, but no concrete results were achieved.
The turning point of the national-liberation movement of the Karabakh people became the creation of their statehood. It was the only way of ensuring the security of the population and their territory.
On September 2, a joint session of the Nagorno Karabakh Regional Council and the Governing Council of the Shahumian district took place in Stepanakert where it was agreed that in line with the wishes of all peoples within the boundaries of Nagorno Karabakh and the Shahoumian Region the Nagorno Karabakh Republic would be proclaimed. Leonard Petrossian was elected chairman of the NKR Executive Committee. Almost immediately followed the Azerbaijani response when for the first time Stepanakert was subjected to bombardment and shelling with ‘Alazan’ rockets. This was to become a regular event.
On September 22, Presidents of Russia and Kazakhstan, B.Yeltsin and N. Nazarbaev accompanied by A.Mutalibov arrived in Stepanakert on a peacemaking mission. On September 23, in Zheleznovodsk (Russia) at the request of B. Yeltsin and N. Nazarbaev negotiations were held between the Armenian, Azerbaijani and Nagorno Karabakh delegations on the Nagorno Karabakh conflict settlement and as a result of these negotiations a joint communiqué was adopted. The delegation of Nagorno Karabakh was headed by Robert Kocharian, one of the leaders of the national-liberation movement.
B.Yeltsin and Nazarbaev’s mediation initiative did not lead to the improvement of the situation in Nagorno Karabakh. On the contrary, Azerbaijanis rapidly escalated bombardment by shelling and attacks on the Armenian populated areas.
On October 15, the representatives of Presidents of Russia and Kazakhstan arrived in Baku to get acquainted with the implementation of the Zheleznovodsk agreement. President of Azerbaijain A. Mutalibov was to receive them and it was he who had stated that it was only Azerbaijan who was competent to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and that no outside agency or country must intervene in its internal affairs. Meanwhile, anti-Armenian riots were organized by the Azerbaijani Popular Front in Baku, making calls to create a regular army to capture Karabakh.
In the same year, on November 26, the Azerbaijani Supreme Soviet adopted a bill on dissolution of Nagorno-Karabakh as national-territorial entity, and the Nagorno-Karabakh districts were renamed and subordinated to the newly created administrative centers. On the 28th of November a resolution of the USSR Committee of Constitutional Supervision condemned the Azerbaijani legislative body act as violating the status of the NKAO, sealed by the USSR Constitution.
The most important stage in the national liberation struggle of the Karabakh people became the all-republic referendum, held on December 10, 1991, 99,89% of the participants of which voted in favor of independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. On December 28, despite constant bombardment by the Azerbaijani Army, elections for the Supreme Soviet of the republic were carried out in the NKR. On January 6, 1992 the NKR newly elected legislative body, proceeding from the people’s essential right for self-determination and basing on the Nagorno-Karabakh people’s will, expressed through a referendum, adopted the Declaration of the NKR Independence. On the same day the deputies appealed to the UN and to all the countries of the world with the request to recognize the NKR and help to prevent the genocide of the Artsakh Armenians. On January 8, the session elected the leader of the legislative body of the republic. Thirty two-year Arthur Mkrtchian became the first chairman of the NKR Supreme Soviet. Oleg Yesayan was confirmed Chairman of the Council of Ministers.
Taking advantage of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan proceeded to escalate wide-scaled military offensives against the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The Azeri-populated villages, surrounding Stepanakert, were turned into large military bases from which the capital of the republic was being methodically destroyed by means of artillery guns. There began an unprecedented in the whole history of the Karabakh conflict shelling by the missile rocket launchers "Grad" - a weapon of mass elimination the use of which against civilian population is forbidden by numerous international conventions. For the first time the Azerbaijani side used "Grad" rocket, bombarding the Shahumian district center, as a result of which many people including children died.
Late in 1991 the units of the former 4th Soviet Army were ordered to withdraw the territory of Karabakh they had hardly intervened in the conflict. The republic then remained alone, face to face with the Azerbaijani regular-armed units. They were equipped with modern military equipment and weapons including aircraft many of which were flown by foreign mercenaries. Early in 1992 the arsenal of the Azeri armed forces were considerably increased at the expense of the captured warehouses of the Transcaucasian military district of the former Soviet Army, located in the territory of Azerbaijan. There were kept thousands of carriages with ammunition that, as military experts asserted, would be enough for carrying on intensive military offensives for at least a year.
On the first day of the 1992, from the territory of Aghdam Azerbaijani troops accompanied by 10 tanks and ATC (armored troop carriers) attacked the Armenian village of Khramort and burned it. The NKR capital and the Armenian villages were subjected to further and constant intensive shelling. On January 25-26 an Azerbaijani army battalion embarked on an offensive against the village of Karintak of the Shushi district.The attack was beaten off after two days’ of stubborn fighting, the Azerbaijani military units suffered considerable losses. On January 31, Azerbaijan began an offensive along the whole front line.
The escalation of military offensives compelled the NKR to organize and improve its defense. With that end in view detachments on a voluntary basis were being created throughout Artsakh. A headquarters of the self-defense forces was created to centralize and coordinate these operations. At the beginning of the year in the territory of Artsakh more than 10 companies and platoons were formed comprising more than 1000 people. This became one of the important steps on the way to creating a regular army.
On the night of January 21-22, 1992 the headquarters of the Azerbaijani OMON located in the Krkjan quarter (former Karkarashen) of the town of Stepanakert was eliminated. Then from February 10 the firing points of villages Malibeyli(now Ajapnyak) and Ghushchilar, adjacent to the NKR capital, were destroyed. Nevertheless, the situation continued to remain extremely tense. From the enemy firing points, practically located along the full length of the Azerbaijani-Armenian border, long-range weapons operated, causing mass destruction and high casualty rates amongst the people.
On February 24, the NKR Supreme Soviet Presidium took a decision on the law status of the republic's armed forces, which were subordinated to the united command. Serzh Sargsyan was appointed the chairman of the Self-Defense Committee.
One of the primary tasks of the Artsakh self-defense forces was the removal and destruction of the enemy’s bridgehead at Khodjaly(now Ivanyan). Here there was a considerable contingent of manpower, a great quantity of military equipment. The reopening of the corridor that linked the settlement of Askeran with the capital Stepanakert was of military-strategic importance. Besides, it was necessary to unlock the republic’s only airport, which was controlled by that Azeri-populated settlement.
On February 25, the Artsakh self-defense detachments, taking up a position in the west of Khodjaly, demanded that the enemies leave the military base and allow the civilians through the established humanitarian corridor.The then president of Azerbaijan A. Mutalibov confessed, that "the corridor was established by the Armenians to let the civilian inhabitants through" (the Nezavisimaya Gazeta, April 2, 1992). Meanwhile the Azeri servicemen acted in another way, using the inhabitants in the village as a shield, they resumed a bombardment of the NKR populated points, and when they were compelled to leave the village, they themselves shot the civilian inhabitants columns on the approaches to the Aghdam district borders. The same A. Mutalibov connected this unprecedented criminal action with the Azerbaijani Opposition Popular Front efforts to remove him from office, putting the whole responsibility for what had happened on him.
Early in March the Azeri army undertook a wide-scaled offensive along the entire front line. The main blow was aimed in the direction of Martakert, Askeran and Martuni districts. As a result of fierce battles the offensive was halted. With the liquidation of the Khodjaly military base bombardment by shelling did not substantially decreased. From the town of Shushi, towering above Stepanakert, the sustained rocket-artillery bombardment of the NKR capital and other populated points were carried throughout the day and nights that followed. On May 7, the Azeri infantry and armor backed with military helicopters MI-24, embarked on an assault against the Karabakh defense positions in the southeast of Stepanakert. Simultaneously, on the same day about 200 Grad rockets and other types of weapons were launched down onto the capital from the Shushi hills and adjacent Azerbaijani points, causing many casualties. A fire broke out at the railway station and in a number of houses throughout the town.
The self-defense force command made a decision to neutralize the strong points of the enemy in these inhabited localities. On May 8, in the evening the Artsakh self-defense subunits assumed an offensive, which was led by Arkady Ter-Tadevossian (Komandos), taking the Shushi-Lachin main road under their control. By noon the defense of Shushi from the north and south had been broken. As a result of street battles the Armenian formations had taken the central quarters of the town by the evening. On May 9, Shushi was entirely liberated. After destroying the firing points in Shushi and other adjacent territories of the NKR the self-defense forces were tasked to open the road of vital importance-Shushi-Lachin-Zabukh which would remove the blockade and restore a normal vital activity of the republic. On May 18, the subunits of the Karabakhi army, having been formed during the hostilities (May 9 is considered day of formation of the NKR Defense Army) entered Lachin (now Berdzor, Qashatagh region), thus breaking the 3-year blockade ring. On May 20, along the Goris-Stepanakert road through the Lachin Corridor hundreds of tons of humanitarian cargo were delivered to the NKR capital: food, medicine and other goods of the first priority. After the Shushi -Lachin operation there followed a lessening of tension in the conflict area.
Meanwhile, the enemy was preparing for the wide-scaled military operation. On June 12, the Azerbaijani troops embarked on an offensive in the north-eastern, eastern and south-eastern sectors of the front. Practically, the whole weight of the Azerbaijan military was thrown at the 20 kilometers theatre of operations. In addition, the forces of former Soviet 4-th Army stationed in the NKR were engaged. With the help of armor equipment, Grad multiple-missile rocket launchers and aircraft the enemy captured the whole of the Shahumian district, the part of the Martakert and Askeran districts and came close to the district center of Askeran. As a result of an offensive of unprecedented scale the Azerbaijani national army destroyed and burned scores of villages, forty thousand inhabitants of the republic became refugees. Taking into account this situation, on June 18 the NKR Supreme Soviet announced a state of emergency in the republic. Partial mobilization covering sergeants, the reserve, conscripts from the age from 18 to 40, officers up to 50 years old, women, having special training, was held.
In the first days of June the Azerbaijani army, expanding its offensive in several directions captured the district center Martakert and a number of villages of the district. The threat hung over Artsakh, the 40% territory of which had been occupied by the Azerbaijani troops.
On August 11, the President of Azerbaijan issued an edict on conscription for military service of all those demobilized from the army in 1991-1992, as well as a prolongation for those who serving in the armed forces. With expansion of aggression and prevention further capturing the territories the necessity of improving the defense, as well as the necessity of reorganizing state governing system was organized. With this aim on August 12 the NKR Supreme Soviet Presidium, headed by the SC Acting Chairman Georgy Petrossian adopted an edict placing the Republic on a war footing. The mobilization of men at the age of 18-45 began. On August 15, the State Committee of Defense was established, absolute executive and legislative power having been passed to it. The State Committee of Defense, which was headed by Robert Kocharian, was designed to mobilize all the manpower and material resources of the republic, convert the enterprises, establishments and organizations to a war status. The unification of the various autonomous self-defense forces and the creation of a united army under single command became a major priority.
Meanwhile, heavy battles were continuing in the different sectors of the front. Simultaneously, the Azerbaijani air force continued to attack civilian inhabited localities. On August 18, pellet bombs were dropped onto Stepanakert the use of which is forbidden by international law. On following days the villages of the Martuni, Martakert and Askeran districts were subjected to aerial bombardment.
By late summer the Martakert sector continued to remain an extremely tense part of the front. On August 26, at the expense of great losses the enemy succeeded in taking the Mardakert-Qelbajar(Qarvachar) main road which was of great strategic significance. Scanty Karabakhi forces, operating in the Martakert sector did so under trying conditions. To strengthen troops in this sector of the front the regrouping of the forces was made as a result of which early in September the NKR Defense Army succeeded in stopping the advance of the enemy; and undertaking a counter-offensive in the Askeran direction and liberating this district’s villages. In the same period in the totally occupied Shahumian district a guerilla movement was deployed.
In the last decade of October the Azerbaijani troops twice made an attempt to cut off the Lachin humanitarian corridor, however they were stopped 12 kilometers from it and then thrown back. On October 19, the Karabakh forces started a counter-offensive in the south of the corridor and came out to the borders of the Kubatly district.
On November 1992, the NKR Defense Army in the course of the counter-offensive operations in the southeast of the Martakert district practically took the Tartar-Martakert-Qelbajar main road under its control. Fierce fighting was carried on for a month on the full length of the Martakert front. Late 1992 observed the abatement of the activity hostilities on the full length of front.
Early in January 1993 military offensives along the full length of the Azerbaijani-Karabakh front entered a new stage. Azerbaijan engaged almost the whole of its arsenal – attacking with aircraft, heavy tanks, various weapons and infantry. On January 14, the Azeri troops embarked on a wide-scaled offensive in the direction of the village of Kichan and Srkhavand of the Martakert district, and the village of Chartar of the Martuni district. However, the enemy was not able to advance in those sectors.
In early February heavy fighting took place at the northern front. To free the occupied territory of the Martakert district the NKR Self-defense Army command gave an order for taking a counter offensive. Having broken the resistance of the enemy in a few days, the Karabakhi forces came out on to the strategic sector of the Martakert-Qelbajar road. By late February as a result of heavy fighting the Karabakhi Army succeeded in re-establishing full control under the Sarsang storage lake where was located the electric power station that was of vital importance to the republic.
In the period from March 27 till April 5 there started the operations to remove the military bases of the Qelbajar district; they presented a serious threat to the western borders of NKR. On April 3, the firing points in the district center Qelbajar were neutralized. Having taken the crossroad, linking Qelbajar with Gyandja Gandzak), the Karabakh forces came out to the Omar Pass on April 5. From the second half of April the situation at the front became relatively quiet.
However, late in the spring the situation changed abruptly. After a short interval the enemy resumed military operations on the full length of the front, choosing the eastern, Martuni sector for the main attack. All attempts to break through the defense of the Karabakhi troops failed.
At the beginning of the summer the Defense Army Command started on the plan for the liberation of the town of Martakert, undertaking an offensive in several directions simultaneously. The battles reached a climax on June 27 when thanks to the decisive and coordinated actions; Mardakert was liberated after having been under the occupation of Azerbaijan for a year.
On June 14, the Supreme Council Presidium elected the SC Presidium Member Karen Babourian as the Acting Chairman of the NKR Parliament.
On July 4, the Azerbaijani army began a large scale offensive in the Askeran, Hadrut and Martakert sectors of the front supported by air power and armor engineering. In all the sectors the enemy was repulsed and fled to the initial positions. The height of strategic importance near the village of Shelly in the Aghdam district, from where the populated places of the Askeran district and the town of Stepanakert were subjected to the sustained intensive artillery bombardment by shelling, passed under the control of the Karabakhi Army.
Nevertheless, the capital of the NKR continued to be under constant bombardment from Aghdam where there were a great number of long-range weapons and launchers "Grad". To ensure the safety of Stepanakert the task to liquidate the military base of Agdam was put before the armed forces of Artsakh. On July 23, the Karabakhi forces, having broken down the resistance of the enemy, who had thrown the main part of his armed forces into this sector, entered Aghdam. This removed not only the threat of systematic shelling of the NKR capital, but also the threat of further offensives on Askeran and contiguous districts.
With the removal of this large military base the Azerbaijani leadership was compelled to come out with the proposal to cease the fire. On July 25, practically for the first time during the conflict the arrangement for a three days armistice was achieved.
However, at the beginning of August the situation rapidly changed. The sustained attacks on the Karabakhi positions resumed. They mainly were carried on in the Djebrayil direction. Thanks to the skillful actions of the NKR Defense Army the course of the counter-offensive operations in that period a number of military bases of the enemy were destroyed. On August 16 from the Azerbaijani town of Fizuli an offensive was undertaken in the direction of the southern borders of the Martuni district and the eastern border of the Hadrut district. The military units of the NKR Defense Army succeeded in not only defending their positions, but, in the course of the battles, also liberating a number of the earlier occupied villages in the south of the Hadrut district.
In the second half of August the fighting took place along the Fizuly-Djebrayil- Kubatly line. On August 22, the Azeri troops were forced to leave the town of Fizuly and the district of the same name. In two days the Karabaghian troops entered the district center Djebrail and two days later took the territory of the same named district under their control. On August 26, the Hadrut district territory of the NKR was entirely liberated. On August 29, the Azeri side made an attempt to break through the Karabakhi defensive positions to the south of the Lachin Humanitarian Corridor, but the subdivisions of the NKR Defense Army, throwing back the enemy, embarked on a counter-offensive and on August 31 entered the district center Kubatly. On the same day an agreement on a cease-fire for 10 days’ time was signed between Azebaijan and the NKR as well as an arrangement for a meeting of the leaders of both republics on September 10.
However, the agreement did not give a real result in the sense of transferring the resolution of the problem from a military into a political channel. The relative tranquility at the front lasted merely a month and a half. On the night of October 10, Azerbaijan resumed military hostilities in the Hadrut sector of the front. On October 21, the units of the Azerbaijani Army began an offensive in the Hadrut-Djebrayil direction as a result of which they were able to capture a number of strategic hills, again exposing the safety of the population of the settlement of Hadrut and adjacent villages to threat. On October 24, the NKR Self-defense Army troops undertook a counter-offensive in the southern direction of the front, neutralizing a number of firing points of the enemy, in particular the inhabited locality of Horadiz. Having taken this military base, the Karabakhi forces isolated the Zangelan district, a part of the Djebrayil and the Kubatly districts from the rest of Azerbaijan.
On November 1 in the morning the fighters of the Self-defense Army took the district center Zangelan together with the adjacent populated points. From December 10 the Azerbaijani side three times embarked on an offensive in the south-eastern sector of the front, but on each occasion the Karabakhi army was able to repulse the enemy’s attacks. On December 15, from the bases of the Aghdjabedy district in Azebaijan there began massed rocket-artillery shelling of the populated points of the Martuni district, including the town of Martuni. On December 19, backed by tanks and airpower the Azerbaijani troops again attacked the Karabakhi army positions in the east of the Martuni district. The NKR armed forces were able to stop the offensive and on the night of December 20 threw the enemy back to the initial positions. On December 22, the positions of the Karabakhi troops were subjected to artillery shelling and in the south-eastern sector of the front as the Azeri forces assumed a counter offensive. For the whole of the next day the enemy unsuccessfully tried to break the defensive borders of the Karabakhi along the front line extending some 30 kilometers. On December 26-27, the Azerbaijani troops waged offensives in the Martakert, Martuni and Hadrut directions, but they did not succeeded in advancing. By the end of 1993, the whole territory from the railway junction of Horadiz to the state border of Armenia had passed under the control of the Karabakhi side, which enables the creation of an area of safety at the southern borders of the NKR.
In this period the leadership of Azerbaijan declared the mobilization of all men from the age of 18-40 year old. In addition to complement the Azerbaijani Army at the Karabakh front there were engaged mercenaries, including about 1.5 thousand mudjahiddins from Afghanistan - the international observers not once evidenced about it. The participation of the mercenaries in the war was confirmed by personal papers, military maps, letters and photos, dictionaries, national currency, received by Karabakhi military men as a trophy.
At the beginning of 1994 Azerbaijan made one more attempt to take hold of the situation, intensifying the offensives on the full front. Hard fighting was waged from the highland Omar Pass to Araks. In spite of serious losses the enemy did not give up his plans. Withstanding the defense and carrying on a number of successful counter-offensives, the NKR Defense Army started liquidating the enemy’s bases in Omar Pass area in early February. On February 18, the northern sector, including Omar Pass, was entirely under the Karabakhi forces control. Thus, the Qelbajar district was entirely occupied by the NKR Defense Army troops.
At the end of February and at the beginning of March the main fighting was deployed in the south-eastern sector of the front in the direction of Horadiz. The enemy’s troops backed by armored forces, artillery and aviation tried to break the defense of the Karabahhis by a frontal blow and advance to Fizuli. But the latter was able not only to defend its positions but also to assume an offensive in a number of sectors.
On April 10, in the course of the counter offensives in the north-eastern front the armed forces of the NKR took a number of strategic heights in the sector Gulistan- Talish. In the middle of April the NKR Defense Army freed the Armenian villages Talish, Chily, Madaghis and Levonarkh. The success attended the Karabakh troops also in the southern direction of the front. By this time they were able to take the main road Aghdam-Barda under their control.
The military defeats compelled Azerbaijan to accept the Russian Federation’s proposal on armistice. On May 5, under the mediation of Russia, Kirgizia, and the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly in the capital of Kirgizia Bishkek Azerbaijan, Nagorno Karabakh, and Armenia signed the protocol, which entered the history of the Karabakh conflict settlement as the Bishkek Protocol on the basis of which the agreement on cease-fire was achieved. On May 12, in Moscow to shape the Bishkek agreements legally there was a meeting of Defense Minister of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan, Defense Minister of Azebaijan Mamedraffi Mamedov and the NKR Defense Army Commander Samvel Babayan, at which the parties' adherence to the earlier achieved agreement on armistice was affirmed. The document - “The Agreement on the order of realizing the 1994 February 18 Protocol” - was also prepared, providing the disengagement of the Karabakhi and Azerbaijani troops, the establishing of the buffer zone between the parties and bringing peacemaking forces into it. Defense Ministers of the Russian Federation and Armenia Pavel Grachev and Serzhe Sargsyan, and the NKR Defense Army Commander Samvel Babayan signed the document. But Defense Minister of Azerbaijan Mamedraffi Mamedov did not sign the document. He was urgently summoned to Baku. In spite of Azerbaijan’s not signing the final protocol of the Moscow agreement, in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict area came the durable armistice.
The NKR authorities perfectly realize that in the state of armistice, when, actually, the confrontation between the two well-armed and reinforced camps goes on, the army is the only trustworthy pledge for both the people and statehood. Thus, today fundamental structural and personnel reforms, aimed at strengthening the army's fighting efficiency are being carried out in the Karabakhi Army, under the direction of the NKR Defense Minister, Lieutenant-General Movses Hakobyan. The material and technical basis is being broadened, consecutive work is being done with the manpower.
The NKR Defense Army is ready to give rebuff to any aggression as before.