Artsakh defense minister says ready to expand the security zone in case of a new Azerbaijani attack

Artsakh defense minister says ready to expand the security zone in case of a new Azerbaijani attack

The Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) Defense Army will launch counter-offensive actions and expand the existing security zone should Azerbaijan initiate a new attack, Artsakh Defense Minister Levon Mnatsakanyan told in an exclusive interview to Armenian Public Channel’s “Off the Agenda” program aired on Saturday evening.

“In case of a new attack we will inflict crushing blow on the adversary forces and certainly undertake counter-offensive actions. We will expand the width and the depth of the existing security zone during those counter-offensive actions. The few positions that came under Azerbaijani control in April 2016, will definitely be retaken,” Mnatsakanyan said.

Speaking of Azerbaijan’s policy to use its civilian population as a human shield and the incident  of July 4, Levon Martirosyan said the Armenian side regrets over the casualties among civilians, yet the Azerbaijani side bears the full responsibility.

“I would recommend to refuse using civilians as a human shield and remove firing points from civilian settlements, since our frontline units will retaliate in case of any shelling irrespective of the location of those firing points”

Speaking of the sabotage infiltration attempts by Azerbaijani forces and Armenian actions to thwart them, the minister said: “We can definitely state no sabotage infiltration attempts are registered today. That is due to the Armenian side disrupting them. We are controlling the situation across the entire Line of Contact including at nighttime. The last attempt was made overnight to February 24-25 of this year, and we all know the outcome. They suffered 6 losses with five of them leaving on the field and the one severely wounded who died afterward in the hospital. After that incident attempts of subversive attacks were permanently excluded.”

Speaking of the reports emerged in the aftermath of the April Four-Day war about the elimination of the so-called “052 Yashma” Azerbaijani elite special force unit, the Artsakh minister said: “The document certifying about the identity of 71st or 72nd group members of 052 brigade of “Yashma” was found at their bodies that were exchanged. It is believed that the 1000th serviceman was on the battlefield and was killed during those clashes.  That is being said the whole staff of the brigade was involved in military actions in the northern direction despite Azerbaijani claims they didn’t attacked. According to our data, they have around 400 losses in manpower in only that brigade. Today, they are engaged with assessment works, studying the military units, regiments, choosing special unit forces among conscripts aiming to restore their forces. I am pessimistic they will manage to recover from those losses in two years. They can augment yet their ability to solve serious matters remains open,” the minister noted.

Mnatsakanyan next reflected on the lethal cases on the frontline as a result of sniper fire calling on the necessity to strictly follow the security guidelines on the frontline as most cases are registered due to violation of those rules. In the minister’s words, works are underway aimed at reducing the sniper incidents.

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