In Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) in 1991, the Soviet army units, the internal troops of the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the Azerbaijani riot police carried out Operation Ring, the purpose of which was the deportation of the Armenian population from as many settlements as possible.
“The targets of the deportation, first of all, were the settlements of Northern Artsakh – the villages of the Shahumyan district and the Getashen subdistrict,” reported the official newspaper of the Defense Ministry of Armenia “Hay Zinvor” (“Armenian soldier”).
According to the newspaper, Operation Ring began on April 30, 1991, and continued until mid-summer. During the operation, more than 10 thousand Armenians were deported from 24 villages of northern Karabakh and other regions. Some of them were killed.
“The operation was carried out by the internal troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) of the USSR and the Azerbaijani riot police with the direct participation of the 23rd division of the 4th army deployed in Gandzak (Kirovabad) under the command of Yuri Shatalin, the commander-in-chief of the internal troops of the USSR MVD. Simultaneously with the deportation of the population of the Armenian villages, shelling of the border regions of Armenia began.”
The commander of the Arabo detachment Manvel Yeghiazaryan who had participated in Martunashen’s self-defense during Operation Ring recalled: “In September 1990, we were in Martunashen and at first fought small battles. Then, the battles intensified. On April 19, the Ganja regiment of the Soviet army somewhat reinforced by Azerbaijani soldiers again attacked Martunashen.”
Getashen self-defense participant Mher Harutyunyan recalled how the operation started on April 30: “The units of the Soviet army entered Getashen early in the morning. Armored vehicles entered Getashen: half of them went to Martunashen and took both villages into an encirclement.”
According to former Armenian Foreign Minister Alexander Arzumanyan, at that time in Moscow, it was decided to support Baku at the highest state level since Armenia refused to participate in a referendum to support the preservation of the Soviet Union.
“The Fourth Army stationed in Azerbaijan fully fought on the side of Azerbaijan. That is, it was transferred to the disposal of Azerbaijan and served its interests,” the former foreign minister said.
According to Manvel Yeghiazaryan, right after the Operation Ring, large-scale military operations began in Karabakh and in the border regions of Armenia.
“On April 30, Soviet troops together with Azerbaijanis attacked Martunashen. The guys were fighting not for life but for death. But the forces were not equal because it was impossible for the 40 members of the Arabo unit to fight against more than 100 units of armored vehicles. Following Martunashen, Getashen fell.”
“The Soviet Union still existed then, and there was state terror,” Larisa Alaverdyan, the first ombudsman of Armenia, gave an assessment of the events that occurred nearly 30 years ago.
“What happened was a real ethnic cleansing,” said Alexander Arzumanyan. “In those years when we talked with these people, their stories differed very little from the stories told by our grandfathers who had survived the Armenian Genocide.”
Օղակ գործողություն 1991 թ. ապրիլ-օգոստոս