18/09/2023

Despite Nagorno-Karabakh humanitarian aid deal, tensions escalate as Azerbaijani Forces gather on Armenia border with Russian-style symbols

STEPANAKERT, Nagorno-Karabakh — In a concerning development, Azerbaijani forces have been observed amassing near the Armenian border, their vehicles marked by the use of Russian-style symbols on their military vehicles, raising fears of a potential conflict. Open-source intelligence published by The Centre for Information Resilience (CIR) and reported by The Telegraph last week supports Armenian claims of an imminent threat from Azerbaijan.

The build-up comes despite a recent deal to allow humanitarian aid through to besieged Nagorno-Karabakh through the Azerbaijani blockaded Lachin Corridor.

The peculiar markings appearing on Azerbaijani army infantry trucks and armored personnel carriers consist of an inverted “A” and a stylized “F”. While Azerbaijan has not officially explained the symbolism, experts have drawn parallels with the Russian military’s use of “V” and “Z” symbols as battle group identifiers before its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. These symbols have also been adopted by Azerbaijani nationalists as avatars and logos, further intensifying concerns.

CIR investigators noted a series of unsettling developments, including heightened activity at Azerbaijani military bases and an increase in flights between Azerbaijan and a military airfield in Israel, one of its allies. Additionally, Iran, which is aligned with Armenia, has been engaged in opposing military maneuvers. While these movements could potentially be routine, the combination of factors has raised suspicions of a military build-up in the region.

The potential ramifications of a new conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh are concerning. Turkey, a staunch ally of Azerbaijan, and Pakistan, an arms supplier, could become involved. Armenia, on the other hand, has developed an alliance with Iran and procures weapons from India, further complicating the regional dynamics.

Tensions have been mounting around Nagorno-Karabakh, with frequent deadly skirmishes along the border. The most recent focus has been on the Lachin Corridor, a 20-mile stretch of road linking mainland Armenia to a mountain plateau. Since December, Azerbaijan has blocked this vital corridor, impacting the lives of approximately 120,000 ethnic Armenians in the region, who now face severe shortages of essential supplies.

The Armenian government has accused Azerbaijan of genocide, an accusation echoed by former Chief Prosecutor of the Internal Criminal Court (ICC) Luis Moreno Ocampo.