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Israeli defense systems shot down Russian Iskander Missile fired at Baku by Armenia

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Armenia launched at least one Russian-made short-range Iskander ballistic missile at Baku in November during the Nagorno-Karabakh war, but it was shot down by Azerbaijan, a senior official briefed on the incident told Middle East Eye.

Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed on a Russia and Turkey-brokered ceasefire after six weeks of heavy fighting in November, following the Azerbaijani army’s seizure of the strategic city of Shusha (known as Shushi in Armenian).

According to the senior official, Russia encouraged Armenia to use Iskandar missiles and provided material support for their launch, in order to compel Azerbaijan, which was capturing territory at a fast rate, to give the ceasefire a chance.

‘It was concerning for Azerbaijani officials. But a missile defence system operated by the Azerbaijani military, an Israeli-made Barak-8, shot it down’

– Senior official

“An Iskander ballistic missile was launched by Yerevan directly into the capital days before the ceasefire. It was concerning for Azerbaijani officials. But a missile defence system operated by the Azerbaijani military, an Israeli-made Barak-8, shot it down,” the official said.

“Further use of these missiles could really escalate the situation on the ground. And I think, among other things, it convinced the Azerbaijani leadership to go for a ceasefire.”

A senior Armenian military official who has taken part in the war told journalists in November that Yerevan indeed fired the short-range missile at Azerbaijan.

“[It] was used during the war though I will not say where,” Colonel-General Movses Hakobyan said, according to a report by Bloomberg, after he had stood down as head of the defence ministry’s military control service.

Russia also delivered military supplies to Yerevan during the war “as much as their conscience allowed”, he added.

Azerbaijan has an operational land-based version of Barak 8-system with 12 launchers and 75 surface-to-air missiles, which could have been used to take down missiles like the Iskander. The system was acquired by Azerbaijan in 2018 and has been tested.

Video footage, which appeared on social media hours before the declared ceasefire on 9 November, indicated that Armenia launched an Iskandar missile into Azerbaijani territory.

Can Kasapoglu, director of defence research at Turkish think tank EDAM, told MEE that Iskander systems were mobile and Baku was within its range from Nagorno-Karabakh. 

“It is quite plausible that Armenians have tried to target Baku with an Iskander as a last resort to put pressure on Azerbaijan for a ceasefire,” he said. “The use of Iskander matches with Armenia’s intra-war deterrence efforts as they were overwhelmed by Azerbaijani technological superiority in the battleground.”EXCLUSIVE: Azerbaijan, Armenia ‘near ceasefire deal’ on Nagorno-KarabakhRead More »

Early in the conflict, the Armenian military targeted Azerbaijan with Tochka and Scud missiles. Kasapoglu suggested it was understandable that Armenia would resort to more advanced models such as the Iskander as its situation became more desperate.

“Of course, using these assets on the civilian population, which the Armenian missiles hit, was a war crime,” he added.

Kasapoglu, who will release a report this week on Armenia’s use of Iskander systems during the war based on open-source information, said his research suggests that Armenia launched the missile 24 or 48 hours before the ceasefire.

“We believe that Russians played a role since the missile command center is jointly run by Armenian and Russian military officers.”

Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijan’s president, told a group of journalists last week that Armenia had fired several ballistic missiles into Azerbaijani territory, and regional countries were able to track them.

In October, Armenian missiles attacks caused civilian casualties in Azerbaijan’s second-largest city Ganja. Azerbaijan reported that at least two missiles with 300km range landed in districts near Baku. 

Both Azerbaijani and Armenian forces have been accused of war crimes and abuses in Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed mountain territory.

Armenian tensions

The Iskander revelation comes as Armenia is enduring a moment of grave political uncertainty, due to a public dispute between Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and military leaders that erupted last week over the effectiveness of the Iskander missiles during the war. 

Azerbaijan has declared total victory in Nagorno-Karabakh after its Turkey-backed forces crushed Armenian opposition to its offensive.

Pashinyan said in an interview last week that the missiles did not explode or were only 10 percent effective, because they might be outdated.

His remarks were quickly mocked by one of the senior military officials, Tiran Khacharyan, the first deputy chief of general staff, who was quickly dismissed by the prime minister.

The military responded on Thursday with an ultimatum, asking for Pashinyan’s resignation over his “failure” to make reasonable decisions at a critical time after the defeat in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Pashinyan slapped the declaration as a “coup attempt”, and tried to dismiss the senior military leadership, but couldn’t get President Armen Sarksyan’s necessary support. 

After days of protests and the military firmly standing its ground, Pashinyan took a step back on Monday, announcing through his press secretary that he was not “properly informed” about the situation. 

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Albania turns to EU for help in extinguishing wildfires

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The head of Albanian General Directorate of Civil Emergencies, Haki Çako, stated today that the operations for extinguishing the flames which have spread rapidly in some areas of the country are continuing, Report informs, citing the Albanian Daily News.

Çako noted that they have also contacted the center for responding to civil emergencies in Brussels, but an aggravated situation is present in other Balkan countries. He stated that troops of the Albanian Armed Forces were sent by helicopter to Karaburun to make extinguishing the flames possible.

"There are many forces from the ground that operate in certain units. We contacted the civil emergency response center in Brussels. Due to the aggravated situation, all Balkan countries have been affected by high temperatures that have also experienced fires. We will continue until the situation normalizes.

The operation has not started today. It has been days since it started. Today it has become necessary to intensify the human resources of the Armed Forces and increase the air force," Haki Çako said.

"With the work done and the increase of resources, we hope to keep the situation under control. Due to the difficult terrain, the operation continued yesterday and today. We intend to stop the advance of the fire," he stressed.

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Summer training period starts for Azerbaijani troops

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Per the combat training plan for 2021, the types of troops, Army Corps, formations, and military units of the Azerbaijani Army have started a new training period, Report informs, citing the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry.

The primary goals and objectives, as well as their fulfillment during the training period, were brought to the attention at the events held in military units.

In order to increase the level of combat readiness of troops, the training process in the Army will be conducted following the requirements of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the orders of the Minister of Defense, taking into consideration the risks and real threats on land, at sea, and in the air, as well as combat experience gained in the Second Karabakh War.

Due to the beginning of the summer training period, drill reviews were held, the condition of the material and technical base in the military units was checked.

The combat readiness training started in all military units in the first days of the summer training period.

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Flood damage will exceed 6 billion euros in Germany, says federal minister

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The damage from the July floods in western Germany will amount to billions of euros, Report informs, citing Germany’s Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz.

It now becomes clear that only in two states – Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia – the scale of damage will be greater than during the last similar disaster, which affected 11 regions at once in 2013, the minister told a local TV.

The politician noted that last time 6 billion euros were allocated to eliminate the disaster consequences.

Since July 12, heavy rains have been raging in western and southwestern Germany, causing devastating flooding. The total death toll in all settlements affected by the disaster exceeded 180 people; more than 750 people received various injuries.

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