By Ayya Lmahamad
Representatives of the Azerbaijani public have urged a thorough investigation into the firing of a missile from the Iskander-M operational-tactical system at Shusha city, which was liberated from Armenia's occupation on November 8, 2020.
On April 2, Azerbaijan's Mine Action Agency reported that the Iskander missile's fragments had been found in two areas in Shusha city and that the missiles had exploded. After the modification codes on those fragments were checked it was defined that the missile at Shusha city was fired from the Iskander-M tactical ballistic missile system.
At the end of the 44-day Karabakh war, former Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and Colonel General Movses Hakobyan stated that the Iskander missiles struck Shusha city.
This was followed by a comment from Prime Minister Pashinyan that the warheads did not explode or only exploded at 10 percent capacity. Nevertheless, the Russian Defence Ministry’s official representative Igor Konashenkov then categorically denied the use of Iskander missiles in Karabakh, saying that according to the ministry’s objective and reliable information, none of the missile systems of this type was used during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The head of the Azerbaijani parliamentary committee on science and education, Bakhtiyar Aliyev, named as a war crime the firing of the missile in question.
Aliyev stressed the need to investigate the case and underlined that the UN Security Council resolutions and international conventions strictly prohibit the transfer of such weapons to Armenia.
“The transfer to Armenia of such a destructive weapon, which belongs to the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing country, and the use of the missile system against Azerbaijan cast doubt on its [Russia's] peacekeeping and neutrality,” he said.
Meanwhile, political expert Elchin Mirzabayli believes that the manufacturing country is responsible for the use of the Iskander-M missile system against Azerbaijan during military operations carried out to liberate its lands from Armenia's occupation.
It should be noted that Russia repeatedly emphasized that this missile system is intended only for use by the Russian armed forces and its sale or transfer to any country is impossible.
However, despite Russia’s denial of selling or transferring these missiles to Armenia, their use against Azerbaijan is a fact.
“Thus, the use of Iskander-M by the armed formations in Armenia and in the previously occupied Azerbaijani territories confirms that these missile systems were illegally delivered to Armenia by criminal groups engaged in the arms trade. Either Russia is holding back the truth about the sale of Iskander-M missiles to Armenia, or its leadership has not been informed about it. Anyway, the fact must be seriously investigated,” Mirzabayli said.
MP and political analyst Rasim Musabayov said that modern missile systems of this class have explosion-locking mechanism to prevent their unauthorized use. He noted that either the Armenian military didn’t have the appropriate codes, or they simply didn’t know about it.
Musabayov stressed if the rockets had worked normally and exploded over Shusha, it could only prolong the war, increase the scale of mutual losses, but would not change the final defeat for the Armenians.
Appeal to Russian embassy
Amid aforesaid concerns, a group of Azerbaijani journalists appealed to the Russian embassy, calling for an official reaction from Moscow on the case.
"We hope that the Russian side will express its official position in the near future and officially announce the start of the investigation,” summed up the journalists
Meanwhile, the Kremlin denied having no information about the fragments of the Iskander missile found. Asked to comment on relevant reports from Azerbaijan, Russian presidential spokesperson Dmitriy Peskov said that “I cannot say anything about the missile, I have no information".
It should be noted that Azerbaijan still continues operational search work and demining operations in all cities and regions liberated during the 44-day war.
Some experts believe that Armenia has spent $350 million to mine lands in and around Azerbaijan's Nagorno-Karabakh region that were liberated from occupation in the 44-day war.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on February 26 described Armenia’s failure to provide the maps of mined areas in liberated lands as the main difficulty for Azerbaijani IPDs to return to their homes. He said that this can also be considered to be a war crime as several servicemen and civilians were killed in mine blasts on liberated territories after the war.
A Moscow-brokered ceasefire deal that Baku and Yerevan signed on November 10 brought an end to six weeks of fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani army declared a victory against the Armenian troops. The signed agreement obliged Armenia to withdraw its troops from the Azerbaijani lands that it has occupied since the early 1990s.
Ayya Lmahamad is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @AyyaLmahamad
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