Observer-Reporter – Jan 17, 1990
Fighting escalates between Armenians and Azerbaijanis
MOSCOW (AP) — The Kremlin sent more than 11,000 reinforcements, including Red Army units, to the Caucasus on Tuesday to halt a civil war between Armenians and Azerbaijanis that has killed 56 people. New clashes were reported, and Tass said 2,000 people armed with anti-aircraft guns and other artillery were massing on hills around Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed district that has become a flashpoint for the neighboring groups’ ethnic hatreds.
Combatants in the region 1,250 miles southeast of Moscow had seized stores or hand Grenades, the Interior Ministry said. In Armenia, “demands are being made to arm citizens and send them to Nagorno-Karabakh,” according to the official news agency, and the government newspaper Izvestia reported 16 attacks on weapons depots in 24 hours by Armenians hunting for guns.
In one raid, 3.000 people stormed a police station in Armenia’s Artash region and seized 106 automatic weapons, 30 carbines, 27 rifles, more than 3,000 cartridges and a grenade-launcher, the newspaper said.
“We can’t bring ourselves to pronounce it out loud, but what is happening now in Karabakh, in northern Azerbaijan, can unambiguously be termed a civil war,” correspondent O. Shapovalov wrote in the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda.
“The madness is continuing,” an editor at Armenia’s official Armenpress news agency said from Yerevan, the republic’s capital.
Gorbachev and the Soviet Presidium declared a state of emergency in the strife-torn mountain area Monday night, empowering the government to deploy units of the Soviet army, navy and KGB to protect lives and guard vital installations such as railroads.
Internal security troops already in the region have been incapable of halting the most protracted ethnic conflict in Gorbachev’s nearly five-year tenure as Kremlin leader, said by Izvestia Tuesday to threaten his entire campaign for “perestroika,” or economic and social reform.
More than 6,000 additional internal security troops were sent Tuesday to reinforce existing Interior Ministry detachments, Tass said. To assist them, more than 5,000 Red Army soldiers, who traditionally carry heavier weaponry, also were dispatched, Tass said.
Soviet media did not say how many total troops were in the region.
Residents of Yerevan and Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, said by phone they had seen no sign Tuesday night of the reinforcements’ arrival.
In Washington, the Pentagon said Tuesday it saw reports it believes to be accurate that a mudslide in Baku killed 16 members of the Caspian fleet.