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During the winter of 1991–1992 Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh was blockaded by Azerbaijani forces and many civilian targets in the city were intentionally bombarded by artillery and aircraft.[121] The bombardment of Stepanakert and adjacent Armenian-held towns and villages during the blockade caused widespread destruction[122][123] and the Interior Minister of Nagorno-Karabakh claimed that 169 Armenians died between October 1991 and April 1992.[124] Azerbaijan used weapons such as the BM-21 Grad multiple-launch rocket system during the bombardment. The indiscriminate shelling and aerial attacks, terrorized the civilian population and destroyed numerous civilian buildings, including homes, hospitals and other non-legitimate military targets.[125]

Human Rights Watch reported that main bases used by Azerbaijani armed forces for the bombardment of Stepanakert were the towns of Khojaly and Shusha.[125] In February 1992, Khojaly was captured by a mixed force of ethnic Armenians and, according to international observers, the 366th CIS Regiment.[126] After its capture,

In an overall military comparison, the number of men eligible for military service in Armenia, in the age group of 17–32, totalled 550,000, while in Azerbaijan it was 1.3 million. Most men from both sides had served in the Soviet Army and so had some form of military experience prior to the conflict, including tours of duty in Afghanistan. Among Karabakh Armenians, about 60% had served in the Soviet Army.[26] Most Azerbaijanis were often subject to discrimination during their service in the Soviet military and relegated to work in construction battalions rather than fighting corps.[119] Despite the establishment of two officer academies including a naval school in Azerbaijan, the lack of such military experience was one factor that rendered Azerbaijan unprepared for the war.[119] The Azerbaijani military was assisted by Afghan commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The recruitment for the purpose was mostly made in Peshawar by commander Fazle Haq Mujahid and several groups were dispatched to Azerbaijan for different duties.[15][120]

During the winter of 1991–1992 Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh was blockaded by Azerbaijani forces and many civilian targets in the city were intentionally bombarded by artillery and aircraft.[121] The bombardment of Stepanakert and adjacent Armenian-held towns and villages during the blockade caused widespread destruction[122][123] and the Interior Minister of Nagorno-Karabakh claimed that 169 Armenians died between October 1991 and April 1992.[124] Azerbaijan used weapons such as the BM-21 Grad multiple-launch rocket system during the bombardment. The indiscriminate shelling and aerial attacks, terrorized the civilian population and destroyed numerous civilian buildings, including homes, hospitals and other non-legitimate military targets.[125]

Human Rights Watch reported that main bases used by Azerbaijani armed forces for the bombardment of Stepanakert were the towns of Khojaly and Shusha.Human Rights Watch reported that main bases used by Azerbaijani armed forces for the bombardment of Stepanakert were the towns of Khojaly and Shusha.[125] In February 1992, Khojaly was captured by a mixed force of ethnic Armenians and, according to international observers, the 366th CIS Regiment.[126] After its capture, Khojaly became the site of the largest massacre to occur during the Nagorno-Karabakh war.[127] Human rights Watch estimates that at least 161 Azerbaijani civilians, as well as a number of unarmed hors de combat, were killed as they fled the town.[125] The siege was finally lifted a few months later, in May 1992, when Armenian forces scored a decisive victory by capturing Shusha.[128]

On 2 January 1992 Ayaz Mutalibov assumed the presidency of Azerbaijan. Officially, the newly created Republic of Armenia publicly denied any involvement in providing any weapons, fuel, food, or other logistics to the secessionists in Nagorno-Karabakh. Ter-Petrosyan later did admit to supplying them with logistical supplies and paying the salaries of the separatists, but denied sending any of its own men into combat. Armenia faced a debilitating blockade by the now Republic of Azerbaijan, as well as pressure from neighbouring Turkey, which decided to side with Azerbaijan and build a closer relationship with it.[129] In early February, the Azerbaijani villages of Malıbəyli, Karadagly and Agdaban were conquered and their population evicted, leading to at least 99 civilian deaths and 140 wounded.[86]

The only land connection Armenia had with Karabakh was through the narrow, mountainous Lachin corridor which could only be reached by helicopters. The region's only airport was in the small town of Khojaly, which was 7 kilometres (4 miles) north of the capital Stepanakert with an estimated population of 6,000–10,000 people. Khojaly had been serving as an artillery base from which GRAD missiles were launched upon the civilian population of capital Stepanakert: On some days as many as 400 GRAD missiles rained down on Armenian multi-story apartments.[77][130] By late February, the Armenian forces reportedly warned about the upcoming attack and issued an ultimatum that unless the Azerbaijanis stopped the shelling from Khojaly they would seize the town.[130][131][132]

By late February, Khojaly had largely been cut off. On 26 February, Armenian forces, with the aid of some armored vehicles from the 366th, mounted an offensive to capture Khojaly. According to the Azerbaijani side and the affirmation of other sources including Human Rights Watch, the Moscow-based human rights organization Memorial and the biography of a leading Armenian commander, Monte Melkonian, documented and published by his brother,[133] after Armenian forces captured Khojaly, they killed several hundred civilians evacuating from the town. Armenian forces had previously stated they would attack the city and leave a land corridor for them to escape through. When the attack began, the attacking Armenian force easily outnumbered and overwhelmed the defenders who along with the civilians attempted to retreat north to the Azerbaijani held city of Agdam. The airport's runway was found to have been intentionally destroyed, rendering it temporarily useless. The attacking forces then went on to pursue those fleeing through the corridor and opened fire upon them, killing scores of civilians.[133] Facing charges of an intentional massacre of civilians by international groups, Armenian government officials denied the occurrence of a massacre and asserted an

The only land connection Armenia had with Karabakh was through the narrow, mountainous Lachin corridor which could only be reached by helicopters. The region's only airport was in the small town of Khojaly, which was 7 kilometres (4 miles) north of the capital Stepanakert with an estimated population of 6,000–10,000 people. Khojaly had been serving as an artillery base from which GRAD missiles were launched upon the civilian population of capital Stepanakert: On some days as many as 400 GRAD missiles rained down on Armenian multi-story apartments.[77][130] By late February, the Armenian forces reportedly warned about the upcoming attack and issued an ultimatum that unless the Azerbaijanis stopped the shelling from Khojaly they would seize the town.[130][131][132]

By late February, Khojaly had largely been cut off. On 26 February, Armenian forces, with the aid of some armored vehicles from the 366th, mounted an offensive to capture Khojaly. According to the Azerbaijani side and the affirmation of other sources including Human Rights Watch, the Moscow-based human rights organization Memorial and the biography of a leading Armenian commander, Monte Melkonian, documented and published by his brother,[133] after Armenian forces captured Khojaly, they killed several hundred civilians evacuating from the town. Armenian forces had previously stated they would attack the city and leave a land corridor for them to escape through. When the attack began, the attacking Armenian force easily outnumbered and overwhelmed the defenders who along with the civilians attempted to retreat north to the Azerbaijani held city of Agdam. The airport's runway was found to have been intentionally destroyed, rendering it temporarily useless. The attacking forces then went on to pursue those fleeing through the corridor and opened fire upon them, killing scores of civilians.[133] Facing charges of an intentional massacre of civilians by international groups, Armenian government officials denied the occurrence of a massacre and asserted an objective of silencing the artillery coming from Khojaly.[134]

An exact body count was never ascertained but conservative estimates have placed the number to 485.[135] The official death toll according to Azerbaijani authorities for casualties suffered during the events of 25–26 February is 613 civilians, of them 106 women and 83 children.[136] On 3 March 1992, the Boston Globe reported over 1,000 people had been slain over four years of conflict. It quoted the mayor of Khojaly, Elmar Mamedov, as also saying 200 more were missing, 300 were held hostage and 200 injured in the fighting.[137] A report published in 1992 by the human rights organization Helsinki Watch stated that their inquiry found that the Azerbaijani OMON and "the militia, still in uniform and some still carrying their guns, were interspersed with the masses of civilians" which may have been the reason why Armenian troops fired upon them.[138]

Under pressure from the APF due to the mismanagement of the defence of Khojaly and the safety of its inhabitants, Mutalibov was forced to submit his resignation to the National Assembly of Azerbaijan.

When Armenians launched one of the first offensives, at Stepanakert on 13 February 1988, many Azerbaijanis fled to the stronghold of Shusha.

On 26 January 1992, the Azerbaijani forces stationed in Shusha encircled and attacked the nearby Armenian village Karintak (located on the way from Shusha to Stepanakert) in an attempt to capture it. This operation was conducted by Azerbaijan's then-defence minister Tajedin Mekhtiev and was supposed to prepare the ground for a future attack on Stepanakert. The operation failed as the villagers and the Armenian fighters strongly retaliated. Mekhtiev was ambushed and up to 70 Azeri soldiers died. After this debacle, Mekhtiev left Shusha and was fired as defence minister.[52][139][140]

On 28 March, Azerbaijani troops deployed to attack Stepanakert, attacked Armenian positions above the village Kərkicahan from the village of Dzhangasan. During the afternoon of the next day, Azerbaijan

On 26 January 1992, the Azerbaijani forces stationed in Shusha encircled and attacked the nearby Armenian village Karintak (located on the way from Shusha to Stepanakert) in an attempt to capture it. This operation was conducted by Azerbaijan's then-defence minister Tajedin Mekhtiev and was supposed to prepare the ground for a future attack on Stepanakert. The operation failed as the villagers and the Armenian fighters strongly retaliated. Mekhtiev was ambushed and up to 70 Azeri soldiers died. After this debacle, Mekhtiev left Shusha and was fired as defence minister.[52][139][140]

On 28 March, Azerbaijani troops deployed to attack Stepanakert, attacked Armenian positions above the village Kərkicahan from the village of Dzhangasan. During the afternoon of the next day, Azerbaijani units took up positions in close proximity to the city, but were quickly repulsed by the Armenians.[141]

In the ensuing months after the capture of Khojaly, Azerbaijani commanders holding out in the region's last bastion of Shusha began a large-scale artillery bombardment with GRAD rocket launchers against Stepanakert. By April, the shelling had forced many of the 50,000 people living in Stepanakert to seek refuge in underground bunkers and basements.[113] Facing ground incursions near the city's outlying areas, military leaders in Nagorno-Karabakh organized an offensive to take the town.

On 8 May a force of several hundred Armenian troops accompanied by tanks and helicopters attacked Shusha. Fierce fighting took place in the town's streets and several hundred men were killed on both sides. Although the Armenians were outnumbered and outgunned by the Azerbaijani Army, they managed to capture the town and force the Azerbaijanis to retreat on 9 May.[14]

The capture of Shusha resonated loudly in neighbouring Turkey. Its relations with Armenia had grown better after it had declared its independence from the Soviet Union; they gradually worsened as a result of Armenia's gains in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Turkey's prime minister Suleyman Demirel said that he was under intense pressure by his people to have his country intervene and aid Azerbaijan. Demirel was opposed to such an intervention, saying that Turkey's entrance into the war would trigger an even greater Muslim-Christian conflict (Turkey is overwhelmingly Muslim).[142]

Turkey never sent troops to Azerbaijan but did contribute substantial military aid and advisers. In May 1992, the military commander of the CIS forces, Marshal Yevgeny Shaposhnikov, issued a warning to Western nations, especially the United States, to not interfere with the conflict in the Caucasus, stating it would "place us [the Commonwealth] on the verge of a third world war and that cannot be allowed".[47]

A Chechen contingent, led by Shamil Basayev, was one of the units to participate in the conflict. According to Azerbaijani Colonel Azer Rustamov, in 1992, "hundreds of Chechen volunteers rendered us invaluable help in these battles led by Shamil Basayev and Salman Raduev."[143] Basayev was said to be one of the last fighters to leave Shusha. According to Russian news reports Basayev later said during his career, he and his battalion had only lost once and that defeat came in Karabakh in fighting against the "Dashnak battalion".[143] He later said he pulled his forces out of the conflict because the war seemed to be more for nationalism than for religion.[143] Basayev received direct military training from the Russian GRU during the War in Abkhazia since the Abkhaz were backed by Russia. Other Chechens also were trained by the GRU in warfare. Many of these Chechens who fought for the Russians in Abkhazia against Georgia had fought for Azerbaijan against Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh war.[144]

The loss of Shusha led the Azerbaijani parliament to lay the blame on Yaqub Mammadov, then acting President of Azerbaijan, which removed him from power and cleared Mutalibov of any responsibility after the loss of Khojaly, reinstating him as President on 15 May 1992. Many Azerbaijanis saw this act as a coup, in addition to forestalling parliamentary elections due in June of that year. The Azerbaijani parliament at that time was made up of former leaders from the country's communist regime, and the losses of Khojaly and Shusha led to further agitation for free elections.[47]

To contribute to the turmoil, an offensive was launched by Armenian forces

To contribute to the turmoil, an offensive was launched by Armenian forces on 18 May to take the city of Lachin in the narrow corridor separating Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. The city itself was poorly guarded and, within the next day, Armenian forces took control of the town and cleared any remaining Azerbaijanis to open the road that linked the region to Armenia. The capture of Lachin then allowed an overland route to be connected with Armenia itself with supply convoys beginning to trek up the mountainous region of Lachin to Karabakh.[145]

The loss of Lachin was the final blow to Mutalibov's regime. Demonstrations were held despite Mutalibov's ban and an armed coup was staged by Popular Front activists. Fighting between government forces and Popular Front supporters escalated as the political opposition seized the parliament building in Baku as well as the airport and presidential office. On 16 June 1992 Abulfaz Elchibey was elected leader of Azerbaijan with many political leaders from the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party were elected into the parliament. The instigators lambasted Mutalibov as an undedicated and weak leader in the war in Karabakh. Elchibey was staunchly against receiving any help from the Russians, instead favoring closer ties to Turkey.[146]

The fighting also spilled into nearby Nakhchivan, which was shelled by Armenian troops in May 1992.[147]

Operation Goranboy was a large-scale Azerbaijani offensive in mid-1992 aimed at taking control over the entire Nagorno-Karabakh and putting a decisive end to the resistance. This offensive is regarded as the only successful breakthrough by the Azerbaijani Army and marked the peak of Azerbaijani success in the entirety of the six-year-long conflict. It also marked the beginning of a new, more intense, phase of the war. Over 8,000 Azerbaijani troops and four additional battalions, at least 90 tanks and 70 Infantry fighting vehicles, as well as Mi-24 attack-helicopters were used in this operation.

On 12 June 1992, the Azerbaijani military launched a large-scale diversionary attack in the direction of the Askeran region at the centre of Nagorno-Karabakh. Two groups, numbering 4,000 men, attacked the positions to the north and south

On 12 June 1992, the Azerbaijani military launched a large-scale diversionary attack in the direction of the Askeran region at the centre of Nagorno-Karabakh. Two groups, numbering 4,000 men, attacked the positions to the north and south of Askeran. As a result of fierce fighting the Azerbaijanis managed to establish control over some settlements in the Askeran region: Nakhichevanik, Arachadzor, Pirdzhamal, Dahraz and Agbulak.

On 13 June 1992, Azerbaijan launched its main offensive against the region of Goranboy, located north of Nagorno-Karabakh, which was defended by just two small and poorly-equipped Armenian voluntary detachments. This three-day offensive was code-named Operation Goranboy and commanded by Suret Huseynov. After fifteen hours of fierce fighting against Azerbaijani forces, the two Armenian detachments were forced to retreat. Azerbaijan managed to capture several dozen villages in the Goranboy region originally held by the Armenian forces, and the entire Armenian civilian population of this region fled. On 4 July 1992, the Azerbaijanis captured the largest town in the region, Mardakert.

The scale of the Azerbaijani offensive prompted the Armenian government to threaten Azerbaijan that it would directly intervene and assist the separatists fighting in Karabakh.[148] The assault forced Armenian forces to retreat south toward Stepanakert where Karabakh commanders contemplated destroying a vital hydroelectric dam in the Mardakert region if the offensive was not halted. An estimated 30,000 Armenian refugees were also forced to flee to the capital as the assaulting forces had taken nearly half of Nagorno-Karabakh.

On 18 June 1992, a state of emergency was announced throughout the NKR. On 15 August, the Committee for State Defense of the NKR was created, headed by Robert Kocharyan and later by Serzh Sargsyan. Partial mobilization was called for, which covered sergeants and privates in the NKR, NKR men available for military service aged 18–40, officers up to the age of 50 and women with previous military training.[149] The newly conscripted now numbered 15,000 men.[52] Military reforms swiftly took place consolidating many of the sepa

On 18 June 1992, a state of emergency was announced throughout the NKR. On 15 August, the Committee for State Defense of the NKR was created, headed by Robert Kocharyan and later by Serzh Sargsyan. Partial mobilization was called for, which covered sergeants and privates in the NKR, NKR men available for military service aged 18–40, officers up to the age of 50 and women with previous military training.[149] The newly conscripted now numbered 15,000 men.[52] Military reforms swiftly took place consolidating many of the separate fighting Armenian volunteer detachments into a single NKR Defense Army.

The Azerbaijani thrust ground to a halt when the armor was driven off by helicopter gunships.[52] It was claimed that many of the crew members of the armored units in the Azerbaijani Army launched assault were Russians from the 104th Guards Airborne Division, based out of Ganja and so were the units that eventually stopped them. According to an Armenian government official, they were able to persuade Russian military units to bombard and effectively halt the advance within a few days. Russia also supplied arms to the Armenians. This allowed the Armenian government to make up its losses and organize a counteroffensive to restore the original lines of the front.[52] Given the reorganization of the NKR Defense Army, the tide of Azerbaijani advances was finally stemmed. By late 1992, the Azerbaijani Army was exhausted and had suffered heavy losses. Faced with imminent defeat, Suret Huseynov moved what was left of his army out of Aghdara and back to Ganja, where it could recuperate and restock on ammunition and armaments found at the 104th Guards Airborne Division's base. In February–March of the following year, the NKR Defense Army helped turn the tide into a wave of advances.

New efforts at peace talks were initiated by Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in the first half of 1992, after the events in Khojaly and the resignation of Azerbaijani President Ayaz Mutallibov. Iranian diplomats conducted shuttle diplomacy and were able to bring the new president of Azerbaijan Yaqub Mammadov and President of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosian to Tehran for bilateral talks on 7 May 1992.[150][151] The Tehran Communiqué was signed by Mammadov, Ter-Petrosian and Rafsanjani following the agreement of the parties to international legal norms, stability of borders and to deal with the refugee crisis. The peace efforts were disrupted on the next day when Armenian troops captured the town of Shusha and completely failed following the capture of Lachin on 18 May.[152]

In mid-1992, the CSCE (later to become the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe), created the Minsk Group in Helsinki which comprised eleven nations and was co-chaired by France, Russia and the United States with the purpose of mediating a peace deal with Armenia and Azerbaijan. In their annual summit in 1992, the organization failed to address and solve the many new problems that had arisen since the Soviet Union collapsed, much less the Karabakh conflict. The war in Yugoslavia, Moldova's war with the breakaway republic of Transnistria, the secessionist movement in Chechnya and Georgia's renewed disputes with Russia, Abkhazia, and Ossetia were all top agenda issues that involved various ethnic groups fighting each other.[153]

The CSCE proposed the use of NATO and CIS peacekeepers to monitor ceasefires and protect shipments of humanitarian aid being sent to displaced refugees. Several ceasefires were put into effect after the June offensive, but the implementation of a European peacekeeping force, endorsed by Armenia, never came to fruition. The idea of sending 100 international observers to Karabakh was once raised but talks broke down completely between Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders in July. Russia was especially opposed to allowing a multinational peacekeeping force from NATO to entering the Caucasus, seeing it as a move that encroached on its "backyard".[47]

In late June, a new, smaller Azerbaijani offensive was planned, this time against the town of Martuni in the southeastern half of Karabakh. The attack force consisted of several dozen tanks and armored fighting vehicles along with a complement of several infantry companies massing along the Machkalashen and Jardar fronts near Martuni and Krasnyy Bazar. Martuni's regimental commander, Monte Melkonian, although lacking heavy armor, managed to stave off repeated attempts by the Azerbaijani forces.[14]

In late August 1992, Nagorno-Karabakh's government found itself in a disorderly state and its members resigned on 17 August. Power was subsequently assumed by a council called the State Defense Committee and chaired by Robert Kocharyan, which stated it would temporarily govern the enclave until the conflict ended.In late August 1992, Nagorno-Karabakh's government found itself in a disorderly state and its members resigned on 17 August. Power was subsequently assumed by a council called the State Defense Committee and chaired by Robert Kocharyan, which stated it would temporarily govern the enclave until the conflict ended.[154] At the same time, Azerbaijan also launched attacks by fixed-wing aircraft, often bombing civilian targets. Kocharyan condemned what he believed were intentional attempts to kill civilians by the Azerbaijanis and also Russia's alleged passive and unconcerned attitude toward allowing its army's weapons stockpiles to be sold or transferred to Azerbaijan.[155]

As winter approached, both sides largely abstained from launching full-scale offensives so as to preserve resources, such as gas and electricity, for domestic use. Despite the opening of an economic highway to the residents living in Karabakh, both Armenia and the enclave suffered a great deal due to the economic blockades imposed by Azerbaijan. While not completely shut off, material aid sent through Turkey arrived sporadically.[47]

Experiencing both food shortages and power shortages, after the shutt

Experiencing both food shortages and power shortages, after the shutting down of the Metsamor nuclear power plant, Armenia's economic outlook appeared bleak: in Georgia, a new bout of civil wars against separatists in Abkhazia and Ossetia began, and supply convoys were raided and the only oil pipeline leading from Russia to Armenia was repeatedly destroyed. As in 1991–1992, the 1992–1993 winter was especially cold, as many families throughout Armenia and Karabakh were left without heating and hot water.[156]

Grain had become difficult to procure. The Armenian Diaspora raised money and donated supplies to Armenia. In December, two shipments of 33,000 tons of grain and 150 tons of infant formula arrived from the United States via the Black Sea port of Batumi, Georgia.[156] In February 1993, the European Community sent 4.5 million ECUs to Armenia.[156] Armenia's southern neighbor Iran also helped Armenia economically by providing power and electricity. Elchibey's acrimonious stance toward Iran and his remarks to unify with Iran's Azerbaijani minority alienated relations between the two countries.

Azerbaijanis were displaced as internal and international refugees were forced to live in makeshift camps provided by both the Azerbaijan government and Iran. The International Red Cross also distributed blankets to the Azerbaijanis and noted that by December, enough food was being allocated for the refugees.[157] Azerbaijan also struggled to rehabilitate its petroleum industry, the country's chief export. Its oil refineries were not generating at full capacity and production quotas fell well short of estimates. In 1965, the oil fields in Baku were producing 21.5 million tons of oil annually; by 1988, that number had dropped down to almost 3.3 million. Outdated Soviet refinery equipment and a reluctance by Western oil companies to invest in a war region where pipelines would routinely be destroyed prevented Azerbaijan from fully exploiting its oil wealth.[47]

Despite the gruelling winter, the new year was viewed enthusiastically by both sides. Azerbaijan's President Elchibey expressed optimism toward bringing an agreeable solution to the conflict with Armenia's Ter-Petrosyan. Glimmers of such hope quickly began to fade in January 1993, despite the calls for a new ceasefire by Boris Yeltsin and George H. W. Bush, as hostilities in the region brewed up once more.[158] Armenian forces began a new bout of offensives that overran villages in northern Karabakh that had been held by the Azerbaijanis since the previous year. After Armenian losses in 1992, Russia started massive armament shipments to Armenia in the following year. Russia supplied Armenia with arms with a total cost of 1 billion USD in value in 1993. According to Russian general Lev Rokhlin, Russians supplied Armenians with such massive arms shipment in return for "money, personal contacts and lots of vodkas".[159]

Frustration over these military defeats took a toll on the domestic front in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan's military had grown more desp

Frustration over these military defeats took a toll on the domestic front in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan's military had grown more desperate and defence minister Gaziev and Huseynov's brigade turned to Russian help, a move which ran against Elchibey's policies and was construed as insubordination. Political infighting and arguments about where to shift military units between the country's ministry of the interior Isgandar Hamidov and Gaziev led to the latter's resignation on 20 February. Armenia was similarly wracked by political turmoil and growing Armenian dissension against President Ter-Petrosyan.[160]

Situated west of northern Karabakh, outside the official boundaries of the region, was the rayon of Kalbajar, which bordered Armenia. With a population of about 60,000, the several dozen villages were made up of Azerbaijani and Kurds.[161] In March 1993, the Armenian-held areas near the Sarsang reservoir in Mardakert were reported to have been coming under attack by the Azerbaijanis. After successfully defending the Martuni region, Melkonian's fighters were tasked to move to capture the region of Kalbajar, where the incursions and artillery shelling were said to have been coming from.[14]

Scant military opposition by the Azerbaijanis allowed Melkonian's fighters to gain a foothold in the region and along the way capture several abandoned armored vehicles and tanks. At 2:45 pm, on 2 April, Armenian forces from two directions advanced toward Kalbajar in an attack that struck Azerbaijani armor and troops entrenched near the Ganja-Kalbajar intersection. Azerbaijani forces were unable to halt the advances made by Armenian armor and were wiped out completely. The second attack toward Kalbajar also quickly overran the defenders. By 3 April, Armenian forces were in possession of Kalbajar.[14] President Elchibey imposed a state of emergency for a period of two months and introduced universal conscription.

On 30 April, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed [14] President Elchibey imposed a state of emergency for a period of two months and introduced universal conscription.

On 30 April, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed Resolution 822, co-sponsored by Turkey and Pakistan, demanding the immediate cessation of all hostilities and the withdrawal of all occupying forces from Kalbajar.[162] Human Rights Watch concluded that during the Kalbajar offensive Armenian forces committed numerous violations of the rules of war, including the forcible exodus of a civilian population, indiscriminate fire, and taking of hostages.[161]

The political repercussions were also felt in Azerbaijan when Huseynov embarked on his "march to Baku". Frustrated with what he felt was Elchibey's incompetence and demoted from his rank of colonel, his brigade advanced in early June from its base in Ganja toward Baku with the explicit aim of unseating the president. Elchibey stepped down from office on 18 June and power was assumed by then parliamentary member Heydar Aliyev. On 1 July, Huseynov was appointed prime minister of Azerbaijan.[163] As acting president, Aliyev disbanded 33 voluntary battalions of the Popular Front, which he deemed politically unreliable.[164] Aliyev became the President of Azerbaijan on 10 October 1993.

While the people of Azerbaijan were adjusting to the new political landscape, many Armenians were mourning Melkonian, who was killed earlier on 12 June in a skirmish with Azerbaijani light armor and infantry near the town of Merzuli and given a state funeral in Yerevan. The Armenian side made use of the political crisis in Baku, which had left the Karabakh front almost undefended by the Azerbaijani forces.[52] The following four months of political instability in Azerbaijan led to the loss of control over five districts, as well as the north of Nagorno-Karabakh.[52] Azerbaijani military forces were unable to put up much resistance in the face of Armenian advances and abandoned most of their positions without so much as putting up a fight.[52] In late June, they were driven out from Mardakert, losing their final foothold of the enclave. By July, Armenian forces were preparing to attack and capture the region of Agdam, another rayon that fell outside of Nagorno-Karabakh, claiming that they were attempting to widen a barrier that would keep towns and villages and their positions out of the range of Azerbaijani artillery.[165]

On 4 July artillery bombardment commenced against Agdam by Armenian forces, destroying many parts of the town. Soldiers, along with civilians, began to evacuate Agdam. Facing military collapse, Aliyev attempted to mediate with the de facto Karabakh government and Minsk Group officials. In mid-August, Armenians massed a force to take the Azerbaijani-held regions of Fizuli and Jebrail, south of Nagorno-Karabakh proper.

In light of the Armenians' advance into Azerbaijan, Turkey's prime minister Tansu Çiller, warned the Armenian government not to attack Nakhichevan and demanded that Armenians pull out of Azerbaijan's territories. Thousands of Turkish troops were sent to the border between Turkey and Armenia in early September. Russian Federation forces in Armenia, in turn, countered their movements and thus warded off the possible Turkish participation in the conflict.[166]

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On 4 July artillery bombardment commenced against Agdam by Armenian forces, destroying many parts of the town. Soldiers, along with civilians, began to evacuate Agdam. Facing military collapse, Aliyev attempted to mediate with the de facto Karabakh government and Minsk Group officials. In mid-August, Armenians massed a force to take the Azerbaijani-held regions of Fizuli and Jebrail, south of Nagorno-Karabakh proper.

In light of the Armenians' advance into Azerbaijan, Turkey's prime minister Tansu Çiller, warned the Armenian government not to attack Nakhichevan and demanded that Armenians pull out of Azerbaijan's territories. Thousands of Turkish troops were sent to the border between Turkey and Armenia in early September. Russian Federation forces in Armenia, in turn, countered their movements and thus warded off the possible Turkish participation in the conflict.[166]

By early September, Azerbaijani forces were nearly in complete disarray. Many of the heavy weapons they had received and bought from the Russians had been taken out of action or abandoned during the battles. Since the June 1992 offensive, Armenian forces had captured dozens of tanks, light armor, and artillery from Azerbaijan. For example, according to Monte Melkonian in a television interview in March 1993, his forces in Martuni alone had captured or destroyed a total of 55 T-72s, 24 BMP-2s, 15 APCs and 25 heavy artillery pieces since the June 1992 Goranboy offensive. "Most of our arms," he stated, "[were] captured from Azerbaijan."[14] Serzh Sargsyan, the then military leader of the Karabakh armed forces, tallied a total of 156 tanks captured through the course of the war.[41] By mid-1993, Armenian forces had captured so much equipment that many of them were praising Elchibey, since he was, in effect, arming both sides.[14]

Further signs of Azerbaijan's desperation included the recruitment by Aliyev of 1,000–1,500 Afghan and Arab mujahadeen fighters from Afghanistan.[167][168] Although the Azerbaijani government denied this claim, correspondence and photographs captured by Armenian forces indicated otherwise.[47] A United States-based petroleum company, MEGA OIL, also hired several American military trainers as a prerequisite for Azerbaijan to grant it drilling rights at its oil fields.[118]

The aerial warfare in Karabakh involved primarily fighter jets and attack helicopters. The primary transport helicopters of the war were the Mi-8 and its cousin, the Mi-17 and were used extensively by both sides. The most widely used helicopter gunship by both sides was the Soviet-made Mi-24 Krokodil.[169] Armenia's active air force at the time consisted of only two Su-25 ground support bombers, one of which was lost due to friendly fire. There were also several Su-22s and Su-17s; these ageing craft took a backseat for the duration of the war.[170] In total, throughout the war Armenians brought down 28 Azerbaijani warplanes and 19 military helicopters.[42]

Azerbaijan's air force was composed of 45 combat aircraft which were often piloted by experienced Russian and Ukrainian mercenaries from the former Soviet military. They flew mission sorties over Karabakh with such sophisticated jets as the MiG-25 and Sukhoi Su-24 and with older-generation Soviet fighter bombers, such as the MiG-21. They were reported to have been paid a monthly salary of over 5,000 rubles and flew bombing campaigns