STEPANAKERT — The Artsakh Republic foreign ministry has issued a statement on the 29th anniversary of ‘Koltso’ Operation, that resulted in deportation of Armenian population of the villages bordering then autonomous region of Nagorno-Karabakh:

“29 years ago, under the direct organization and coordination of the central authorities of the USSR and Soviet Azerbaijan, a large-scale operation ‘Koltso’ (‘Ring’) was carried out to deport the Armenian population of the borderline villages of Artsakh. This bloody operation ultimately transferred the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict to the military plane, initiating the subsequent full-scale aggression of Azerbaijan against the Republic of Artsakh (NKR).

“On April 30, 1991, the massive shelling of Getashen and Martunashen villages of the Shahumyan region launched the ‘Koltso’ operation , in the course of which tanks, combat helicopters, and artillery were employed for the first time against the civilians. Azerbaijani special police units (OMON), with the support of internal troops of the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Soviet Army, broke into Armenian villages formally supposedly for “checking the passport regime”, but in fact for killing, robbery, terror against the Armenian population, followed by deportation.

“As a result of military and police actions, dozens of Armenian villages in Northern Artsakh, as well as in Shahumyan, Hadrut and Shushi districts were destroyed, nearly ten thousand people were deported, more than 100 were killed, several hundred people were taken hostage. The fate of many of them remains unknown until now.

“It was another manifestation of the ethnic cleansing policy carried out by Azerbaijan in 1988-1991 in Sumgait, Baku and other settlements of the Azerbaijan SSR, as well as in the villages of Northern Artsakh.

“The Armenian pogroms carried out by the Azerbaijani authorities in response to the demand of the people of Artsakh to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and the subsequent military aggression against the Republic of Artsakh in 1991, which was repeated in April 2016, demonstrated that only the establishment and strengthening of an independent statehood can ensure the right of the people of Artsakh to live freely and safely in its homeland.

“The recognition by the international community of this reality and the international recognition of the Republic of Artsakh will become an additional deterrent against Azerbaijan’s desire to start a new war. They will ensure peace and security in the entire region of the South Caucasus,” the statement said.

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