Free Shusha (Part one): Way to victory

Free Shusha (Part one): Way to victory

Both in the Soviet era and in Tsarist Russia, Shusha was the largest Azerbaijani settlement in the mountainous part of Karabakh. The city was founded by Karabakh khan Panah Ali Khan and for some time the city was called Panahabad in his honor.

After the city was built, Panah Ali Khan, who relocated his Azerbaijani subjects here, began to use Shusha as his main stronghold to increase his influence in the region. The majority of the population in Shusha, which became part of Tsarist Russia after the signing of the Turkmenchay Treaty, was Azerbaijani.

Shusha grew rapidly during the Tsarist Russia period, becoming the second largest city in the Yelizavetpol Governorate after Ganja. The central government’s loss of control over the regions as a result of the revolution in Russia in 1905 led to clashes between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Shusha as in other cities in Azerbaijan. These clashes continued in a more intense form in 1917-1920. The Armenian uprising in the city in March 1920 was suppressed by a harsh intervention of Musavat troops. The suppression of this uprising resulted in more than 10,000 Armenians leaving Shusha. There was no significant change in the ethnic composition of the population during the Soviet era. For example, 85.5% of the population of Shusha in 1979 and 98% in 1989 were Azerbaijanis. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia was the third major blow Shusha received in the last 90 years. Shusha was occupied by Armenian troops in 1992, forcing the Azerbaijani population of the city to leave the region with the army. The loss of Shusha had a very serious impact on Azerbaijani society. Azerbaijanis saw the city, the birthplace of many of the prominent cultural and political figures hailing from the region, as a major center of culture and a place of strategic importance. For this reason, the Azerbaijani side always included the return of the local population to Shusha as a key condition in all the negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1994-2020.

However, starting from 2019, the maximalist policy on Karabakh in Armenian political circles derailed the possible peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia. In particular, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s demonstrative dancing in Shusha in May 2019 was meant as an insult to Azerbaijanis’ dignity. Arayik Harutyunyan, who won the elections a year after that, in May 2020, held his inauguration ceremony in Shusha. On the same day, Harutyunyan proposed moving the capital of the so-called “NRK” to Shusha. Eight days before the war began, it was decided that the capital of the “NKR” would be moved from Khankendi to Shusha in 2022. The leader of the “NKR” Arayik Harutyunyan wrote about it on his Facebook page: “I am glad that my proposal made a few weeks ago at the parliament has already received a positive response from the Free Motherland-UCA Alliance and Justice parties. I think that other National Assembly parties will also join the position of their colleagues. A new parliament building is already under construction in Shusha. I think the decision to move the capital to Shusha has both political and symbolic significance.” This decision was not implemented because of the hostilities that began a week later.

The main goal of the Azerbaijani Army in the operations launched on September 27 was to capture Shusha, as evidenced by President Ilham Aliyev’s answer to the reporter’s question in an interview with the Turkish A Haber TV channel on October 16, 2020: “We are headed for all the territories. Every inch of the occupied lands, every city is dear to us, it is native for us. For me, all villages and cities are equally valuable. But you know very well that Shusha occupies a special place in the hearts of the Azerbaijani people. This is our historic city, a hotbed of ancient culture. Shusha gave the Azerbaijani people many very talented and outstanding personalities. Of course, without Shusha our mission will be half done.”

Fighting in the Hadrut-Shusha and Lachin-Shusha directions

After the capture of Hadrut, the Azerbaijani Army launched operations in the northern direction on October 15. Here it encountered the strongest resistance in the village of Tugh. After capturing the village of Dudukchu northeast of Hadrut, the Azerbaijani units reached the village of Mammaddere, also known as Mamedzor, on 17 October. On October 21, Azerbaijani units approached Tugh, inflicting serious casualties in four days of heavy fighting for the area southeast of Tugh. Lieutenant Colonel Anar Aliyev and Captain Rashad Aliyev of Special Forces were killed in these battles. After three days of fighting, the village of Tugh was captured, after which the Azerbaijani units shelled the Armenian forces in the village of Boyuk Taglar with Smerch missiles. Suffering heavy losses, the Armenian troops left the village without a fight. During the fighting from October 21 to October 29, the entire valley north of Hadrut (the villages of Tsakuri, Atagut, Tugh, Azykh, Boyuk Taglar, Zogalbulag) came under the control of the Azerbaijani Army. Azerbaijani units also seized the village of Shahar and took full control of the Y28-06 road from Hadrut to Girmizi Bazar, but failed to take over the strategically important Fizuli-Girmizi Bazar-Khankendi road (R-31). The first attack of the Azerbaijani troops on Girmizi Bazar failed on October 29. In the video filmed from a long distance, Armenian units are shown hitting an armored vehicle belonging to the attacking Azerbaijani forces with an ATGM. As the village of Girmizi Bazar was heavily guarded, it was decided to attack Shusha directly from the forests. According to the plan, the engineer troops were to follow the Azerbaijani special forces, which were advancing through a 30-km forest area in the direction of Boyuk Taglar-Sighnag, and the regular army units were to retreat to the north. To protect the right flank, the army also simulated attacks in the direction of Girmizi Bazar and Tagaverd. Colonel Jeyhun Bagirov recalls those days: “The Armenians had no idea that we were moving forward through the forest. And they were waiting for us in a different direction, where there were also fierce battles. And our troops also tried to advance, creating the illusion of a desperate attack. Meanwhile, the main strike group made it through the forest. In three days, with bulldozers and with our bare hands, we managed to cut our way through. The Armenians woke up and saw our advance only when we were in the clearing a few kilometers from the village of Chanagchi. But it was already too late. The Azerbaijani units had traveled dozens of kilometers off-road and managed to get the artillery to the clearing.”

On October 29, when the engineer troops began to leave Boyuk Taglar, the Azerbaijani special forces, divided into small groups, approached the villages of Chanagchi, Sighnag and Agbulag and engaged in combat in these directions. In order to protect the main strike group from the flanks, the areas deep in the forest that could hide the enemy from the UAVs were shelled with incendiaries. On October 30, images from the Sentinel satellite showed the woods burning in the direction of the villages of Chagaduz and Tagaverd, east of the strike group’s location. On October 30, Azerbaijani units hit a missile and artillery depot belonging to the Armenian army near the village of Sighnag. A great fire broke out in the area because white phosphorus was stored in these warehouses. Although the Armenian side blamed the Azerbaijani Army for using white phosphorus, referring to the fire, the next day’s footage confirmed that the fire had taken place in the Armenian ammunition depot. The Azerbaijani units advancing towards Shusha across the mountains attacked in the direction of Chanagchi and Sighnag to protect the flanks from the attack. A video showing the village of Chanagchi, which was captured on October 29, was made public on November 5, and two days later Azerbaijani units entered the village of Sighnag.

The second direction of Azerbaijan’s Shusha offensive was Lachin. On October 22, the Azerbaijani forces began attacking in the direction of Lachin and closed to within 10 km of the vital Lachin corridor. The loss of the corridor would have severed any means by which Armenia could support forces inside Nagorno-Karabakh. In retaliation and most likely to divert pressure away from the Lachin corridor, Armenian forces launched a counterassault using dismounted forces in the heavily wooded mountain areas and set ambushes along main supply routes, even capturing seven Azerbaijani BTR-70 armored personnel carriers. On October 26, Azerbaijani units attacked northeast of the village of Safiyan in Lachin District, captured the villages of Ashagi Farajan, Arpagedik and Petrosashen within two days, but retreated, having suffered heavy losses in the village of Chaylaggala. On November 6, the Armenian Ministry of Defense released a video of off-road and armored vehicles belonging to the Azerbaijani military ambushed several kilometers from Lachin. Azerbaijani units lost at least five soldiers during the attack. It was not clear when exactly the video was shot. As the Lachin corridor was very heavily guarded, Azerbaijani soldiers decided to move through the mountains and cut off the Shusha-Lachin road from the weakest part of the defense. Despite the losses, Azerbaijani units moved northeast through the villages of Safiyan in Lachin District, Khandak and Muradkhanli in Gubadli District, and by November took control of the villages of Kohnakend and Qishlag near Turshsu, which was confirmed on November 5. Initially, the Armenian military claimed that “small Azerbaijani sabotage groups” were operating in the mountains and that an operation was underway to eliminate them. However, on October 29, the de facto Armenian leadership of Nagorno-Karabakh began to admit how dangerous the situation was. Arayik Harutyunyan, well aware of the threat posed by the army approaching Shusha from both Lachin and Hadrut, addressed the Armenian people on October 29: “The enemy is several kilometers from Shushi, five kilometers at most. The enemy’s main goal is to capture Shusha, to control it. As they say, who controls Shusha controls Karabakh. I want us all to understand this, and not only just in words, but also by directly participating in the defense of Shusha. Of course, this is not a panic-driven speech, quite the opposite. I believe in victory more than ever. In the next few days we need to reverse this situation on the front and punish the enemy right at the gates of Shusha. Let’s unite and fight together.” On the day of this address, they established that the Azerbaijani troops were preparing to attack southeast of Dashalti and shelled the area.

David Babayan, adviser to the president of the “NKR”, made a statement, saying, “On October 29, the enemy gathered a large grouping, missile and artillery systems, multiple launch rocket systems and a large number of manpower to gradually launch an attack, but yesterday this large group was eliminated. Almost completely eliminated: they have several hundred corpses, many units of modern military equipment have been destroyed. That is, the first attack on Shusha was effectively repelled by our Defense Army and militia.” Despite the losses, the Azerbaijani units approached the village of Dashalti by the end of October. The footage made by Russian war correspondent Alexander Kharchenko on October 31 showed that the fighting had already begun in the direction of Sighnag-Dashalti, in the Hunot Canyon. Another video recorded by Kharchenko southeast of Dashalti that day shows the Armenian army retreating after facing Azerbaijani special forces. Thus, 16 days after the capture of Hadrut, Azerbaijani troops stood at the gates of Shusha, and on November 1, the fighting for Shusha began.

The Liberation Of Shusha

On November 1, a ruthless battle for Dashalti began between Azerbaijani units and the Armenian army. Azerbaijani units attacked from the flanks and managed to encircle Dashalti after two days of fighting. However, the Armenian army, supported by artillery from Shusha, was able to break through the encirclement and remove some of the troops from Dashalti. The Armenian army did not continue the pressure with additional troops from the direction of Sighnag but left Dashalti on November 4. Nakhchivan Special Forces distinguished themselves in the battle of Dashalti. Colonel Tehran Mansimov of the Nakhchivan Special Forces recalls: “Because the road to Shusha was not open, there was heavy, fierce fighting there. The enemy had mobilized all its forces in that area. We received a new objective to prevent the loss of manpower in the mined areas and save time. I got another 3 brigades under my command. In order to create conditions for the special forces, we had to take control of the Dashalti area and eliminate the enemy forces there. Meanwhile, the special forces would enter Shusha. We had to fight and draw the enemy upon ourselves until they crossed the forest and entered Shusha. On that day, we achieved the goal at the cost of the blood of our martyrs, and on November 4, we liberated Dashalti from occupation. In the days that followed, we repelled numerous enemy counterattacks.”

Azerbaijani units moving north from the direction of Lachin were able to cross Mount Kirs in 3 days and cut off the Lachin-Shusha road in the direction of Turshsu-Dashalti. Thus, on November 4, the main road connecting Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh came under the control of the Azerbaijani Army. On the same day, the “NKR” leadership announced that the Lachin-Shusha road was closed. Although the Armenian army immediately sent troops to the area to unblock the road, the Azerbaijani units were able to defend their positions in a fierce combat. For the first time during the war, the Armenian army used a modern drone to break through. On November 4, Azerbaijani troops were spotted by Armenian Orlan-10 drones on the Shusha-Lachin road. The units moving southwest of the village of Dashalti were shelled because their coordinates became known. The Azerbaijani troops suffered losses in this direction but did not lose their positions and began to move north in the direction of Lachin-Shusha. In those days, Russian Colonel Igor Strelkov said that the fighting in this direction would decide the outcome of the war: “Azerbaijani troops have already taken over the Lachin-Shusha road, cutting off the supply of the entire Armenian group east of Khankendi and Shusha. That is, now they don’t even really need to seize the Lachin corridor. After a while, the Armenian forces will experience a shortage of ammunition, fuel and lubricants, and food. The Nagorno-Karabakh troops cannot even retreat now from the vicinity of Khankendi, Khojavend, Agdam, keeping the equipment. They are on the verge of complete defeat, if they do not unblock the road as soon as possible. They have not been able to do this for three days already. If Shusha falls, it will be a matter of weeks until the Armenians are completely defeated.”

With the Lachin-Shusha road closed off, about 80 foreign journalists were stuck in Nagorno-Karabakh. One of those journalists, Adrian Hartrick, recalls: “We were barreling toward Shusha, and all along the roadside Armenian soldiers were digging trenches. Directly across the steep valley, the forests on the surrounding mountains were on fire, possibly the result of white-phosphorus shells dropped by Azerbaijani forces to try and flush out Armenian units who were using the forest as cover from drones. This was November 3. For several days, Azerbaijani forces had been within about five kilometers of Shusha, clashing with Armenian units in hand-to-hand fighting in the forest. While, the close proximity of the Azerbaijani forces was alarming to those in Shusha, as well as those in the nearby capital of Khankendi, most of us believed that these were small commando units sent to harass the Armenians and that they did not pose a major threat. But the scene on the road suggested that things were a little less under control than imagined Late the next morning we got word that the road that we had come in on had been shut down by Armenian forces as a result of clashes around Shusha. With that road, known as the Lachin corridor, the only (relatively) safe way in and out, we were effectively stuck in Karabakh. Initially we were told that Armenian forces were launching an operation to ‘cleanse’ Azerbaijani commandos from the valley and neutralize any threat to the Lachin road. As the day progressed, the shelling only became more intense. Rumors started arriving that the Azerbaijanis in the valley were actually a more sizable fighting force than previously thought. Local authorities claimed the road would be reopened shortly. But a dark resignation began to show on the faces of officials and civilians around town. It started to feel that the war was closing in on Khankendi.”

Azerbaijani units took control of the mountains south of Shusha on November 4 and began maneuvering around Shusha on the night of November 5. From that moment on, the Armenian special forces tried to repel the army approaching the city, but they did not succeed. On November 5, Azerbaijani units began to climb the heights south of Shusha. At the critical moment of the battle for Shusha, a serious disagreement arose between the “NKR” leadership and the Armenian government. Although the “NKR” leadership acknowledged the fighting in Shusha, Press Secretary of the Armenian Ministry of Defense Shushan Stepanyan said on November 5 that the detachment approaching Turshsu and Dashalti was a small sabotage group and that it was incorrect to say that the regular Azerbaijani army was involved in the fighting. The video filmed on November 5 by Semyon Pegov, war correspondent for the WarGonzo project founded by Armenian media mogul Aram Gabrelyanov, showed that the Armenian army was in a desperate situation. On the same day, while Pegov was recording a video on the M-12 road, Azerbaijani special forces opened fire from the Lachin road into the valley below on the southwestern side of Shusha. When it happened, Pegov and Armenian Greco-Roman wrestler Mihran Harutyunyan fled the area.

Colonel Igor Strelkov spoke ironically about Semyon Pegov’s coverage of the “elimination” of the Azerbaijani Special Forces around Shusha in the Russian Interest program: “I watch Semyon Pegov’s reports. He is always talking about elimination and encirclement of sabotage groups. Day after day he is getting closer to Shusha, and just yesterday on the outskirts of Shusha he was ‘surrounding and eliminating sabotage groups’ again. I understand that if he doesn’t tell Armenian fairy tales, the Armenians simply won’t let him go anywhere. In reality, the Armenians are retreating to the east. The road to Shusha has been cut off and, apparently, will not be unblocked. The Armenians are on the verge of a complete defeat. If they don’t unblock the road in the next few days, then they will most likely lose everything. Now we are talking about the possible fall of Shusha or at the very least its encirclement, as well as the fall of Khojavend. If Khojavend falls, then the entire road to Shusha will be quickly cleared by the Azerbaijanis and then they will block Shusha from the east. And that will be the end.”

During the fighting in Shusha, ex-director of the Armenian National Security Service Argishti Kyaramyan was in charge of the organization of the defense of Shusha. When the newly appointed commander of the “NKR” Defense Army Mikael Arzumanyan objected to Arayik Harutyunyan, saying that appointing Kyaramyan, who had no military experience, to such a responsible position, was unacceptable, Harutyunyan answered that this was a direct order of the Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. However, when the Azerbaijani army approached Shusha, Kyaramyan got into an armored car and left Shusha on November 5. After his departure, the defense of the city was entrusted to Seyran Ohanyan. Araik Harutyunyan mentioned that when he was in Shusha on the same day: “Dear compatriots, I have visited Shusha today, met with the defenders of the city, and discussed on the spot the strategy of our fight against the numerous enemy forces. The city of Shusha with its spiritual and cultural values and traditions is one of our greatest legacies that we received from our ancestors and must pass on to future generations with the same Armenian spirit. I would like to thank in particular the devoted son of the Armenian people, Colonel General Seyran Ohanyan.” Former Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan refuted the news reports saying that he led the defense of Shusha: “I was in Shusha on my own initiative and did not maintain contact with the command of the Defense Army. I helped to form a militia group in Shusha, there were 16 of us. I was the oldest. On November 5, we were blocked from three sides. Two of my former assistants, Sergei Ayrapetov and Vahe Sirunyan, who died in battle, acted heroically. Thanks to their tactics, we were able to break through. The soldiers offered several times to take me out of the city. But I decided to stay. Then the enemy discovered the command post where I was. It was decided to abandon it, and on the morning of November 6 we left it.”

On the evening of November 5, Azerbaijani special forces were able to cut off the Armenian reinforcements trying to come to the rescue of the troops in Shusha. This meant that almost no aid would reach Shusha. Thus, on November 5, the city began to be surrounded from three main directions. The Azerbaijani soldiers in the direction of Dashalti provided direct access to the main road to Shusha. At the same time, in order to block reinforcements from Khankendi, the troops in this direction opened heavy fire with BM-21 (Grad) missiles. Shusha was being defended by about 2,000-strong Armenian army. Most of these troops were stationed on the road from Khankendi to Shusha, waiting for the main strike of the Azerbaijani units here. The Azerbaijani military leadership planned to capture the city not from the main road, but from the steep cliffs. The Armenian army had little manpower in the steep mountainous areas and did not expect an attack from here. Veteran of the Shusha battles Alik Mammadov recalls the entry of the army into Shusha: “We received information that there were 500 Armenian soldiers on the opposite side. This area had the weakest defense, there were at least three times more heavy artillery and manpower on the other positions than here, because they thought we would attack from there. They didn’t expect us to join the battle without artillery after climbing the cliffs, no one could imagine this. Not only they, in general, no one could have thought that we would take Shusha with knives. We could have been killed if General Hikmet Mirzayev hadn’t had a precise plan of the combat mission and the exact coordinates. Everything was calculated with pinpoint accuracy. We climbed the cliffs and engaged in hand-to-hand combat. In close combat we used knives. General Mirzayev even predicted panic among them, and as soon as panic broke out, we scattered in groups in opposite directions.”

On November 6, Azerbaijani special forces split into groups and began to ascend to Shusha from several points in the western part of the city. In order to prevent the groups in the direction of Shusha-Khankendi, where the Armenian forces had most of their positions, from helping the Armenians in Shusha, the ground troops attacked simultaneously along the outskirts of the city from both east and west to the north. The first group climbing to the city engaged in combat a few meters before the summit. During the first ascend, some members of the special forces were killed and wounded. Some of the wounded still continued to climb. After the first group, the other groups began to ascend to the city from the western part of Shusha. Panic began among the Armenian troops, who were afraid of the soldiers who attacked them even though they were wounded. Their panic was also noted by the journalists of the Le Monde newspaper who were in Khankendi at the time: “The Azerbaijani Army has reached its main target, Shusha. The Armenian units defending Shusha scattered. One ambulance after another brought dozens of wounded soldiers to the Khankendi hospital. Other soldiers came to Khankendi from Shusha in despair, and it was unclear whether they would go back and fight. This looked like the crucial moment of the fighting. On November 6, the situation began to change in favor of the Azerbaijani forces.” On the evening of November 6, special forces bore down the resistance of the Armenian army in the western part of Shusha and entered the city. Able to carry only light portable weapons, the Azerbaijani Special Forces destroyed several tanks and BMPs deployed by the Armenian army in the city using rocket-propelled grenade launchers and anti-tank guided missiles. Thus, on the night of November 7, the Azerbaijani Special Forces were able to take control of a large part of Shusha.

The Counteroffensive Of The Armenian Army And The End Of The War

Due to the cloudy weather during the Shusha operation, the Azerbaijani military leadership could not provide any support to the special forces in the city. The operation was challenging not only because drones could not be used, but also because of the inability of other branches of troops to provide any assistance to the fighters in the city. Minister of Defense Colonel General Zakir Hasanov says, “We had several difficulties in organizing the Shusha operation, as we could not actively use artillery. Although we crushed the Armenian artillery in the vicinity of Shushi, and they suffered very heavy losses, both in manpower and equipment. But we did not open artillery fire on our own city, which made it difficult for us to carry out the operation. The weather was cloudy that day too, so we could not use drones during the operation. There were even difficulties with reconnaissance. We did not use our planes and helicopters either.”

As foggy weather limited Azerbaijan’s use of UAVs, the Armenian army formed a strike group of T-72 tanks and BMP-2s and immediately dispatched them to Shusha. In addition, the Defense Army threw its last reserves, the 2S1 (Gvozdika) self-propelled howitzers and the TOS-1A heavy flamethrower system, into battle. Despite the formation of a strong strike group, the Azerbaijani special forces repulsed three counterattacks and began to advance inside the city. After heavy fighting, the resistance of the Armenian army was crushed at noon on November 7, and Major Gunduz Safarli‘s unit hoisted the Azerbaijani flag on the building of the Shusha City Executive Power. Major Zaur Rzayev reported to President Ilham Aliyev on the liberation of Shusha. In the evening of November 7, Azerbaijani units around the city attacked and drove the Armenian army out of the vicinity of Shusha, and the Armenian army retreated in the direction of the M-12 road with heavy losses. On November 8, the fighting was already going on in the direction of Khankendi, north of Shusha. An Armenian tank trying to attack Shusha in this direction was hit by an anti-tank missile. On the morning of November 8, the Azerbaijani troops began to concentrate additional forces southeast and northeast of Shusha. Although they had suffered heavy losses during the counterattack on Shusha, the Armenian command prepared a new plan of attack. However, this plan caused a serious disagreement between the “NKR” leadership and the military. A heated exchange between Arayik Harutyunyan and Samvel Babayan after the capture of Shusha by the Azerbaijani Army demonstrated that the Defense Army was in a hopeless situation.

Samvel Babayan: “Let’s talk combat mission. We cover Shusha with twenty, thirty rounds of Smerch fire. We kill everyone there. We take the city back. What’s next? The state of the army and the civilian population does not allow us to fight. So, we fight, we take Shusha, then what? We cannot fight the NATO army, a fully equipped army… Yesterday I tried to organize an operation with three battalions. We have four howitzers in total. If we don’t have the artillery, how are we going to support the offensive? We should talk to Russia today, we either surrender these territories and leave, or they help us.”

On November 8, the Armenian army tried to turn the tide with tanks but failed. In the afternoon, President Ilham Aliyev addressed the people of Azerbaijan, announcing the liberation of Shusha and extending his congratulations on the capture of Shusha to Lieutenant General Hikmet Mirzayev. This information was immediately refuted by the spokesman for the Armenian Ministry of Defense Artsrun Hovhannisyan: “Our troops fought competently today in the city and its vicinity. I think the situation around the battle for Shusha will become clearer tomorrow. Azerbaijani forces have been infiltrating the city in large groups since Saturday. Our troops regrouped and started retaliatory actions, and I can say that no party in the city has the absolute initiative yet. They failed to fully take the city.” During the fighting that took place on the night of November 9, Azerbaijani units further improved their positions around Shusha. On the morning of November 9, Azerbaijani units attacked from Shusha in the direction of Khankendi. This is confirmed by Arayik Harutyunyan’s post in the morning: “ Early in the morning, I visited the combat posts defending Khankendi and talked to the soldiers of the Defense Army and the militia, who have been repelling the enemy’s attempts to attack the capital from the direction of Shusha for more than 24 hours.” Faced with the threat of capture of Khankendi, the “NKR” leadership immediately began to evacuate the entire population, and there were heavy traffic jams on the roads. On the way to Khankendi, the Azerbaijani Army encountered strong resistance from the Armenian army. On November 9, Shusha was shelled from D-20 howitzers, and the village of Dashalti was again hit by artillery fire with the coordinates from Orlan-10 drones. Suffering heavy losses in Shusha-Khankendi and Dashalti, the Azerbaijani units were able to defend their positions. On the evening of November 9, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense released footage of the liberated city of Shusha. Half an hour later, Vahram Pogosyan, spokesman for the “NKR” President, confirmed that they had lost control over Shusha: “We must admit that to this day, unfortunately, a chain of failures still accompanies us, and the city of Shusha is completely out of our control, and all the encouraging and propaganda messages give us nothing but the loss of a sense of reality. We need to buckle up once more, because the enemy is in the vicinity of Khankendi and the very existence of the capital is under threat now. If we want Shusha to become ours again, if we want to keep Karabakh, then today we must focus all our capacity to organize reliable protection of Khankendi and other directions of the front. This is a real and reliable guarantee of success. False calls for victory and speculation on Facebook will result in us losing everything. And history will not forgive us for this.” Vahram Pogosyan’s statement about the loss of Shusha shocked the Armenian community. Most Armenians claimed that the account had been hacked by Azerbaijanis and that the post had not been made by Pogosyan. In the evening, Pogosyan made another official statement, saying that the post had in fact been written by him and his account had not been hacked. At the daily briefing of the Armenian Ministry of Defense on November 9, Suren Sarumyan filled in for Artsrun Hovhannisyan because of the latter’s deteriorating health. Commenting on the footage of Shusha, Suren Sarumyan said that a sabotage group could have entered the area for a few minutes to plant a flag, but he did not acknowledge that the city was under Azerbaijan’s full control. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan also said on his Facebook page that the fighting for the city of Shusha continued. The information shared by an MP of the Russian Communist Party in Ulyanovsk Oblast after the footage of Shusha had been released gave hope to the Armenian community that Russia would provide military assistance to Armenia. The photograph shared by the MP showed trucks of the 31st brigade of the Russian army lined up at a military airfield. According to the MP, the soldiers told him that they were going to Karabakh. However, the post was deleted a few minutes later, as the MP was informed that the agreement had already been reached between Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia. Azerbaijani forces launched an operation to capture Khankendi on November 9 after repelling attacks in Shusha. Army units attacked Mukhtar and Shushakend east of Shusha and Gaybalikend west of the city. At the same time, the Azerbaijani Army attacked along the entire front. By the beginning of these battles, the situation in the Armenian army had reached a critical level. The Defense Army stopped the attack in the direction of Khojavend with great difficulty, and if the fighting continued, about 30,000 soldiers in Khankendi and Khojavend were likely to be trapped. For this reason, at the request of Arayik Harutyunyan too, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan signed a statement on November 10 to end the war. Minister of Defense Colonel General Zakir Hasanov considers Pashinyan’s actions as a necessity: “Thanks to correct planning, we blocked the units of the Armenian army in the Agdam direction with part of our forces. Thanks to our operation, that is, as a result of moving from the Khojavend and Sugovushan directions, this group was practically surrounded. The Armenians were well aware of this, and if the war had lasted a few more days, then this group would have been completely surrounded. All artillery, multiple launch rocket systems were concentrated in this direction. And no one would have survived in this territory. This is why, realizing this, Armenia signed capitulation.” The leader of the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians Arayik Harutyunyan also saw capitulation as an act of despair: “We lost control over the city of Shusha partially on November 5 and completely on November 7. We were forced to agree to end the Karabakh war. During this period, we lost the Fizuli, Jabrayil, Gubadli, Zangilan, Hadrut Districts, parts of the Martuni, Askeran Districts. The fighting was already on the outskirts of Khankendi. If the hostilities continued, we would have lost all of Karabakh within a few days.”