STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL)—The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s armed forces held on Friday what appeared to be large-scale military exercises monitored by Armenia’s visiting President Serzh Sarkisian and Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian.
The regular exercises began on November 1 in the Armenian-controlled section of the Aghdam district in eastern Karabakh, just kilometers away from Azerbaijani army positions.
Sarkisian and Ohanian, both of them natives and former military leaders of Nagorno-Karabakh, watched the final phase of the war games together with the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s leadership. Their press offices issued no statements in connection with that as of late evening.
The Armenian president was expected to inaugurate on Saturday newly constructed apartment buildings for Karabakh Armenian military personnel. He likewise opened a new military base during a June visit to Karabakh.
The Karabakh government and military made no officials statements on the exercises involving heavy artillery and other military hardware. Nor did they allow local journalists be present at the drills.
News reports from Baku said powerful explosions could be heard in Azerbaijani-controlled territories close to the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” in recent days.
The APA news agency said heavy fire across the frontline intensified on Friday, causing tremors in nearby Azerbaijani towns and villages. Citing local residents, it suggested that the Karabakh forces are holding their largest ever exercises.
The drills come against the backdrop of more frequent cease-fire violations reported from various sections of the frontline in recent months. Meeting in Russia late last month, Sarkisian and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev pledged to bolster the ceasefire regime.
Incidentally, Aliyev visited the Azerbaijani-controlled section of Aghdam and adjacent areas earlier this week. Speaking in the town of Yevlakh, he again warned that Baku will try to win back Karabakh and Azerbaijani districts surrounding it by force if the protracted peace talks with Armenia yield no tangible results soon. “I have no doubts that our armed forces are capable of achieving objectives set for them with honor and within a short period of time,” Aliyev said, according to Day.az.