A full-scale military operation of Azerbaijani forces started on September 27. However, the signs of future large-scale military operations have been obvious since the beginning of the month.
Military operation on freeing the occupied territories
On September 27 Azerbaijani forces started a military operation on freeing the territories that had been occupied by Armenia, namely the Nagorno-Karabakh and several districts around it.
On the same day, President Ilham Aliyev in his address to the nation noted, that the operation was launched following another Armenian provocation on the front line. The president highlighted that the destructive policy of Armenia’s prime minister Pashinyan made further conflict resolution through negotiations impossible. Now the Karabakh conflict can only be solved in a military way.
On the very day the president proposed, and the parliament approved introducing a state of war in the country. Curfews were launched in Baku and other large cities. A partial military mobilization started as well. On the second day of the military operation Baku officially reported on freeing some villages in Fusuli and Jabrayil districts (two out of seven districts in Nagorno-Karabakh occupied by Armenia) as well as strategic positions in Murovdag that allow for a visual control and shellfire of one of the three main roads connecting Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh.
Since the beginning of September, the first signs of future large-scale military operations have started to appear. Azerbaijani officials started to mention Armenia’s provocative actions more frequently. In fact, on September 12 Assistant to the President Hikmet Hajiyev stated that Armenia’s illegal policy of populating the occupied Azerbaijani territories by Armenians from Lebanon and Syria is a serious violation of the international law. He warned that Armenia is planning to use such migrants as mercenaries against Azerbaijan. On September 14, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan called on the OSCE Minsk Group to take measures on stopping the illegal occupation of Azerbaijani territories by the government of Armenia.
On September 19 the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan issued a statement that Armenia is planning some large-scale provocations in order to aggravate the situation on the front line. Zakir Hasanov, the minister of defense of Azerbaijan, noted that the most recent media reports and rhetoric by Armenian military and political authorities as well as military mobilization activities and attracting foreign forces into the region clearly demonstrate that the rival plans large-scale provocations and the deterioration of the situation.
On September 19 the president Ilham Aliyev in his interview to local TV stated the large-scale military operations can possibly be launched.
On September 20 the Minister of Defense reported that at 23:13 Azerbaijan’s air defense units shot down a tactical unmanned aerial vehicle belonging to Armenia. According to information from social networks, the UAV was downed over the territory between Tovuz and Shamkir (Tovuz borders Armenia).
On September 21 the Ministry of Defense stated that the rival intends to heat up the situation on the contact line of Armenian and Azerbaijani forces as well as on the state border between the two countries.
That same day, a special call for reserve officers was announced in Azerbaijan.
On September 21 Ilham Aliyev in his video address at the top meeting within the frames of 75th UN General Assembly session expressed his concerns regarding Armenian military activities: “The aggressive rhetoric and provocations of Armenia demonstrate that Armenia is preparing for a new aggression against Azerbaijan. We call on the UN and international community to urge Armenia to refrain from another military aggression”.
On September 22 the State Security Service stated that Armenian special forces via fake profiles in social networks are attempting to spread disinformation and sew panic among the population of the front line districts.
“Since the beginning of September, the first signs of future large-scale military operations have started to appear.”
The case of Tofiq Yaqublu
In early September Azerbaijan’s public as well as international organizations were closely following the court sentence in the case of a famous opposition activist, a member of “Musavat” party Tofiq Yaqublu. He was sentenced to 4 years and three months of imprisonment under hooliganism charges. Yaqublu stated that this is a “staged” case and all charges against him are false. A 59-year-old activist went on hunger strike to protest on September 1. International human rights organizations, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Freedom House as well US and UK embassies in Azerbaijan, US Department of State, rapporteurs for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and others called on Azerbaijani authorities to reconsider the sentence. On September 12 a doctor Adil Qeybulla visited Tofiq Yaqublu in prison and reported on his critical condition. Yaqublu was transferred to a private clinic, while on September 18 Baku’s appeal court supported a defense motion to change his sentence to home confinement.
The court’s decision was met with positive reactions from international organizations. PACE co-rapporteurs on monitoring Azerbaijan Roger Gale, Stefan Schennach and a rapporteur on reported cases of political prisoners Sunna AEvarsdottir stated that the court’s recent sentence of home confinement is a welcome change and a first long awaited step by Azerbaijani authorities.
“Taxis for well-off customers”
Moving on with changing the structure of management and regulating the country’s economy, president Ilham Aliyev following the launch of Azerbaijan Investment Holding, on September 9 published a decree on creating the Economic Council of the State of Azerbaijan headed by the prime minister. The decree says that the new institution is created with the aim of forming new basics for strategic management of economic policy reflecting the national priorities of the country’s development in the post-pandemic period.
On September 3 the government published a state budget draft for 2021. According to this document, in 2021 the state budget expects an income of 24 billion 327 million manats (approximately $14 billion 310 million). The state budget 2021 expenditures are expected at the level of 25 billion 847,5 million manats ($15 billion 204 million). The 2021 state budget provides for a price of $35 per oil barrel.
In September one of the hottest issues was an attempt made by the Baku Transport Agency to take over and control taxi services in the city. The agency reported that a project on single operating center for all taxi companies with a single taxi tariff is being developed.
However, Hikmet Babayev, the head of the agency’s legal department, suddenly dealt a heavy blow with his careless statements broadcast on one of the local TV channels saying that “it is not acceptable to have such low taxi prices; taxi services, as it used to be in the good old days, should only be used by well-off people. Everybody else can use buses.”
Against the backdrop of public discontent, the Baku Transport Agency had to dismiss Babayev and make a swift statement that introducing a single tariff was only a suggestion which is no longer relevant.