Karabakh: the battle for Hadrut and why it’s important
A small town, rather a village, of Hadrut in Nagorno-Karabakh, which has a little more than 4 thousand inhabitants, has recently become the scene of fierce battles between the sides and the most important point on the front. Both sides claimed to control the city, but the battle for it has been going on for several days. As a result, the President of Azerbaijan admitted that it was about “liberating” the heights around the city, not about Hadrut itself. Why is this area so important to the sides and what is really going on there?
Why is Hadrut so important?
To begin with, Hadrut is the first regional center with Armenian population in Nagorno-Karabakh, within the former autonomous region, which the Azerbaijani side announced occupied/liberated.
Prior to this, Azerbaijani troops occupied two villages in Nagorno-Karabakh – Talish and Madagiz (Sogovushan). But the main battles unfolded in the Jebrail region – a practically uninhabited territory of the Azerbaijani regions occupied by the army of Nagorno-Karabakh in the 90s, from where the entire Azerbaijani population was expelled. In fact, in this area, the parties are fighting for the right to own the ruins.
The same is not true for Hadrut, whose fall could become a great moral blow to the Armenian side and the source of a new, relatively large, wave of refugees.
The second reason is the strategic location of the settlement – if it is controlled by the Azerbaijani army, the Armenian forces defending the Fizuli and Jebrail regions will risk being surrounded and will be forced to leave their positions. The road to the center of Nagorno-Karabakh – the cities of Shushi / Shusha and Stetanakert / Khankendi – will be open for the Azerbaijani forces.
The third, and perhaps the most important reason – on October 9, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev himself announced the capture, i.e. “the release” of Hadrut.
Even before that, bloggers who are considered “confidants” reported about it – they have the reputation of the most informed and having access to information coming directly from the military command.
Until now, the Azerbaijani authorities have adhered to this version, but they have not provided any documentary confirmation of it.
However, just a few days later, on October 12, in an interview with the Turkish Haber Global TV channel, Ilham Aliyev said that the Azerbaijani armed forces “liberated all important heights around Hadrut.”
“It’s a completely different question as to why we do not enter the liberated settlements. From a military point of view, it is sometimes inexpedient,” Aliyev said, indirectly admitting that there are no Azerbaijani troops in the city itself.
What’s going on now?
In the surroundings of Hadrut, a military operation continues to block and destroy the infiltrated sabotage and reconnaissance group, the authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh reported in the morning of October 12.
According to the official Armenian version, on October 10, an Azerbaijani “sabotage group” of up to 200 people unexpectedly attacked the city, but the attack was repulsed.
Stepanakert says that now Azerbaijan has concentrated numerous forces in this area and is to break into the city every possible way. “The Defense Army is fighting tough battles for every inch of land.”
Which the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry labelled as misinformation and noted that in fact “Hadrut was freed from occupation a few days ago.”
There is practically no independent confirmation of official information from the parties. But certain conclusions can be drawn from common videos.
In the evening of October 11, the Armenian Defense Ministry released a video from. The streets of the city can be seen there for only a few seconds, the shooting is carried out from a fast-moving car. Empty streets and cars moving quickly along them are visible.
The main part of the video is the military inside a building. One can see that the building is fortified with sandbags, and it is not safe to leave it.
In the video, the mayor of Hadrut Kamo Petrosyan talks about the attack of the sabotage group, which was stopped. However, five civilians were killed.
More details about the situation in the city can be found in the report of the Public Television of Armenia. Journalists travel by car around the city, but when they hear a shot, they turn into a side street and take refuge in a building or basement. Then they get to the city hall.
In the video, the city is mostly intact, the streets are empty and no military is seen, traces of battles are visible – overturned and broken cars.
What’s really happening?
The official positions of the parties on what is going on in Hadrut and who controls the city are radically different – at least they diverged until today, when the President of Azerbaijan announced “control of heights” over the city.
However, until that time, the parties could not provide exhaustive evidence of their version.
The Azerbaijani side did not publish video or photo materials confirming the presence of the Azerbaijani military in the city or the Azerbaijani flag over Hadrut. The Armenian side has not yet provided sufficiently convincing evidence that it has finally repulsed the attack and held victory over the battlefield – for example, a video or a photo of the killed or captured Azerbaijani “saboteurs” or “Turkish special forces”.
From the scarce material available at the moment, it can be concluded that the battle for the city continues.
Armenian / Karabakh troops are present in the city itself, as well as on the heights above it.
The Azerbaijani armed forces are also on the heights around Hadrut, very close to it, which is why the city is under fire and it is unsafe to be on the streets. Some of them might be in the city itself, posing a threat to the Armenian forces and the journalists working there.
The battle will most likely continue, since Hadrut, whose occupation / liberation has already been announced by the Azerbaijani side, will remain an important target for the offensive.