The Armenian Defense Ministry said on Monday units of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan “opened fire from small arms at a vehicle carrying food for the personnel of the Armenian positions located in the Kut sector” near the Armenia-Azeri border.
The Armenian Defense Ministry also said that Azeri soldiers “targeted” an ambulance, which they said “is a gross violation of international humanitarian law norms.”
Though a minor clash, this comes amid already widespread fears among experts that Azerbaijan, which is backed by Turkey, is planning to invade Armenia.
Experts fear Armenia faces invasion
Both Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have proposed constructing a highway in the far southern portion of the Armenian province of Syunik, which is bordered by Azerbaijan both to the east and the west.
The road would connect the main portion of Azerbaijan to both its western enclave, known as Nakhchivan, as well as to Turkey. Experts fear that if it is built, Azerbaijan could soon move to wrest control of all of Syunik.
“Let us be realistic,” Siobhan Nash-Marshall, a U.S.-based human rights advocate, told CNA last week. “Azerbaijan already has grabbed a part of the region … They are also firing on border villages and have been for a year. What, then, is the threat to Armenia? Invasion.”
Eric Hacopian, a human rights advocate who has been on the ground in Nagorno-Karabakh, also told CNA last week that he believes an invasion of Armenia proper is “quite likely.”
Armenia backs away from Russian influence
Armenia, a former Soviet territory, has long been allied with Russia. Now Armenia appears to be backing away from Russian influence after Russia’s peacekeeping forces failed to prevent Azerbaijan’s violent takeover of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Armenia’s Parliament voted on Tuesday to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has an active arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin. This indicates that if Putin were to set foot in Armenia, authorities would be obliged to arrest him.
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The Russian government decried the decision, calling it “incorrect” and “an unfriendly step,” according to reporting by the Associated Press.
Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, for his part, has tried to reassure Russia that the move was only made in response to Azeri aggression in Nagorno-Karabakh, according to the Guardian.
The two nations’ relationship, nonetheless, continues to grow more strained.
Expert says U.S. could replace Russian influence in Armenia
In a Monday opinion piece in the Washington Times, Sam Brownback, former U.S. ambassador at large for religious freedom, urged the U.S. to give Armenia security backing.
Brownback has said that now is the time for the U.S. to align itself with Armenia, replacing Russia as the primary influence in the region.