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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tales of War in a Karabakh Farmhouse

STEPANAKERT, Nagorno-Karabakh - The farmhouse in Stepanakert, capital of the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, was stacked high with televisions, fridges, chairs, tables and beds - war booty from the recent Armenian offensive into the Kalbadzhar region of western Azerbaijan.


The Armenian military commander whose men brought back the haul called it: "organized pillage", and promised that: "the families of the two soldiers I lost in the attack will get the best fridges".


Interviewed this week, the Armenian leaders of Nagorno-Karabakh showed little regret at having expanded the five-year-long war into Kalbadzhar - which had been undisputed Azerbaijani territory - nor much inclination to return the captured land.


In another room of the Stepanakert farmhouse were piled enough kalashnikovs and ammunition to equip the commander's entire battalion of about 500 men. "All from the Turks", he grinned, referring to the Azeri opposition by the nickname Armenians have given them.


His battalion is credited with being the first to enter the town of Kalbadzhar on April 2.


He is immensely proud of that fact, which is probably why he admitted what no official Armenian source will confirm, namely that Armenian fighters entered Azerbaijan from the Armenian republic as well as from Karabakh.


He also said that, although no deliberate massacres had taken place, on several occasions during the fighting it had been impossible to separate Azeri soldiers from civilians, and a number of noncombatants had been killed.


He did not specify how many, but said the Azeri dead - both military and civilian - had been buried near where they fell.


Foreign aid workers say the Armenians have begun burning the houses in the Kalbadzhar region just as they did in the Azeri towns of Shusha, inside of Karabakh, and Lachin, in the land corridor between Armenia and Karabakh which the Armenians forced open a year ago.


The leader of the Karabakh Armenians, Georgi Petrosyan, said he was ready to negotiate the withdrawal of Armenian forces from the Kalbadzhar region of western Azerbaijan, which they were to occupy because it was used for Azeri artillery attacks on Karabakh.


But in an interview, Petrosyan, the acting president of the Karabakh parliament, said he did not think Azerbaijan was ready to negotiate seriously and that therefore the war would continue until his forces had retaken the parts of Karabakh occupied by Azeri troops.


"If the Azeris do not want to negotiate, we will be forced to retake what is ours", he said.


The Azeris control parts of southern Karabakh and one large town in the north - Margdakert.


The Armenians also claim the Shaumyan region of Azerbaijan to the north of Karabakh, where the majority Armenian population" voted to join with Karabakh in December 1991, but were forced to flee last summer.


"If the Azeris continue to shell Armenian villages and towns in Karabakh we will neutralize their artillery positions", Petrosyan added. "That might mean a zone of protection around Karabakh. My military commanders will decide how big it needs to be".


His military commanders were straightforward about both the past and their plans:


"We've never stepped out of the borders of historic Armenia", said one.


"It's cynical and counterproductive for countries to call us aggressors because of the false borders created by Stalin", he said.


"We are going to take back the rest of Karabakh and the historical Armenian territories occupied by the Azeris which are outside Karabakh".