April 2, 2019, marks the 26th anniversary of the liberation of Karvachar (Kelbajar). On March 27, 1993, Armenian troops launched an operation to liberate Karvachar. By March 29, the city has been surrounded. Within 3 days, the Armenian forces occupied the regional center.
The population of the city had been evacuated by helicopters or had left the city through mountain passes. Karvachar was an important strategic point for the Armenian side. As a result of the liberation of the city, a strong link was established between Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The front line was significantly reduced and the rear of the Martakert region was secured.
The liberation of Karvachar was necessary to ensure the security of the northern and northeastern borders of Armenia and Artsakh. From Karvachar, Azerbaijanis threatened the directions of both Vardenis and Martakert.
Liberating Martakert without establishing control over Karvachar was impossible. Likewise, it was impossible to ensure the security of Vardenis.
It is no coincidence that before the liberation of Karvachar, Martakert passed from side to side several times. In Vardenis, local Armenians were already packing their things to move to Sevan. Only due to the competent actions of the Armenian military associations, Karvachar was cleared of the enemy’s military presence. Both Vardenis and Martakert were saved.
Samvel Babayan, the commander of the NKR self-defense army, later recalled: “We began the preparation of the Lachin and Karvachar operations in winter. And although we were negotiating with the Azerbaijani side, we knew that the enemy was simply trying to win time, preparing for a decisive blow.
We were right: the negotiations were thwarted. Azerbaijan concentrated its forces to the north of the Martakert and Askeran regions, deploying over 5 thousand soldiers, tanks, and heavy artillery there.
In late January, the combat began. The enemy used 4 aircraft, two of which were shot down. For twelve days, we were fighting round-the-clock. The task of the liberation of Martakert heights set before us was fulfilled by 90 percent.”
In general, the Karvachar operation became one of the turning points of the Artsakh war. From a strategic point of view, Karvachar plays a key role in the region. It dominates the Northern Artsakh, allowing it to be controlled up to Gandzak, a strategically important communication hub of the Caucasus.
After the successful implementation of the Karvachar operation, the military-political situation changed qualitatively. The strategic initiative in the war finally went over to the side of Artsakh, which the international community and superpowers definitely realized.