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image captionThe dispute has been going on for four decades

Clashes have erupted between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, with civilian deaths reported by both sides.

Armenia said Azerbaijan had launched an air and artillery attack. It later declared martial law and total military mobilisation.

Azerbaijan blamed Armenia and said it was responding to shelling along the whole front.

The long-running conflict has flared up again in recent months.

  • Learn more about Nagorno-Karabakh

  • Armenia country profile
  • Azerbaijan country profile

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pledged support for Azerbaijan, calling Armenia “the biggest threat to peace and tranquillity in the region.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, called for an immediate ceasefire and talks to stabilise the situation.

Both Armenia and Azerbaijan were part of the Soviet Union before its collapse in 1991.

For four decades they have been stuck in an unresolved conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but controlled by ethnic Armenians.

Border fighting in July killed at least 16 people, prompting the largest popular demonstration for years in the Azerbaijani capital Baku calling for full mobilisation and the recapture of the region.

Turkey has close ties to Azerbaijan and does not have relations with Armenia because of a dispute over the mass killing of Armenians during the Ottoman era. Armenia says this was a genocide, but Turkey staunchly denies this.

What are the two sides saying?

The Armenian Defence Ministry said an attack on civilian settlements, including the regional capital Stepanakert, began at 08:10 local time (04:10 GMT).

It said it had shot down two helicopters and three drones, and destroyed three tanks.

“Our response will be proportionate, and the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan bears full responsibility for the situation,” it said in a statement.

image copyrightReuters
image captionArmenia has announced full mobilisation

Officials said a woman and child had been killed, and further reports of casualties were being verified.

Armenia’s government declared martial law and total military mobilisation, shortly after a similar announcement by the authorities in the separatist region.

“Get ready to defend our sacred homeland,” Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in a statement. He earlier accused Azerbaijan of “pre-planned aggression”.

Map

Meanwhile Azerbaijan blamed Armenia for starting the fighting.

Intensive shelling of several villages had led to civilians being killed or wounded, and severe damage to infrastructure, its defence ministry said.

The country announced a “counter-offensive operation of our troops along the entire front to suppress the combat activity of the armed forces of Armenia and ensure the safety of the civilian population”.

It added that one helicopter had been lost but the crew had survived, and said 12 Armenian air defence systems had been destroyed. It denied other losses reported by Armenia.

Later on Sunday, a defence ministry spokesperson said several villages “which were under enemy occupation for many years, have been liberated”. The claim was rebuffed by Armenia’s defence ministry spokesperson, who said it was “not consistent with the reality.”

Nagorno-Karabakh – key facts

  • A mountainous region of about 4,400 sq km (1,700 sq miles)
  • Traditionally inhabited by Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks
  • In Soviet times, it became an autonomous region within the republic of Azerbaijan
  • Internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, but majority of population is ethnic Armenian
  • An estimated one million people displaced by 1990s war, and about 30,000 killed
  • Separatist forces captured some extra territory around the enclave in Azerbaijan in the 1990s war
  • Stalemate has largely prevailed since a 1994 ceasefire
  • Russia has traditionally supported the Armenians

In a TV address, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said Armenia’s policy was “a new war for new territories”.

“Armenia has been consciously provoking Azerbaijan, and they will see the bitter results of this,” he said.

“Armenia is an occupying country, and an end must be put to this occupation and an end will be put to it.”

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has long been trying to mediate a settlement of the conflict, with diplomats from France, Russia and the US – making up the OSCE Minsk Group – trying to build on a ceasefire accord signed in 1994.

Related Topics

  • Azerbaijan

  • Armenia
  • Nagorno-Karabakh
  • Territorial disputes



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Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski said more than 100,000 people were in attendance, while protest organizers put the figure at 150,000.

Police detained 37 people Friday evening, the vast majority of whom were football hooligans, Sylwester Marczak, spokesman for the Warsaw Police headquarters, said Saturday morning. Taking into account the huge number of participants, it was a “very peaceful” protest, he added.

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Polish women disrupt church services in protest at abortion ban

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Aerial footage of the demonstration in Warsaw posted to social media showed the vast scale of the turnout there on Friday evening.

Protest organizers urged protesters to make their way towards the residence of Jaroslaw Kaczyński, the leader of the ruling right-wing Law and Justice Party Leader (PiS) who is widely seen as the de facto decision maker in Poland. The demonstration ended there at around 11 p.m. local time and organizers urged protesters to make their way home safely.

Kaczyński on Wednesday called the protesters “criminals” and said people taking part in mass gatherings were endangering people’s lives given the surge in coronavirus cases in Poland.

Thousands of protesters march towards the residence of ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski during the demonstration Friday in Warsaw.

Draft amendment

In an apparent softening of his stance, Polish President Andrzej Duda on Friday submitted a draft amendment to the controversial law which would legalize abortion in situations where the baby has “lethal defects” and would die soon after birth.

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“It is an extremely delicate and painful situation for every mother, for every parent. In the case of lethal defects, the death of the child is inevitable. The protection of his life is therefore beyond human power,” the statement also said.

Duda had earlier clarified his stance on abortion in such cases in an interview with Polish radio station RMF FM. “You must clearly ask yourself whether anyone has the right to demand, or the law may require such a woman to… bear such a child in her womb and then bear the entire physical cost of birth,” Duda said.

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Poland moves to near-total ban on abortion, sparking protests

The ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal removed one of the few remaining grounds for legal termination in the country, which already had some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe.

Abortions due to fetal defects comprised approximately 98% of all legal abortions carried out in Poland in 2019, according to data from the Polish Ministry of Health.

Asked about the ongoing protests across Poland over the controversial court ruling, Duda condemned the demonstrators who disrupted church services earlier this week.

“If we are talking about acts of physical or verbal aggression, if we are talking about invading churches, if we are talking about insulting religious feelings, profaning places of worship, I am sorry, but the boundaries are definitely exceeded here,” he said.

Abortion rights protest leaders have accused the populist PiS party of pushing the court to tighten abortion restrictions in order to please the party’s base, and the Church. Church leaders have denied influencing the change in law.

Covid warning

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Friday urged protesters not to go out on the streets as he announced further steps to try to limit the spread of Covid-19.

“I understand your anger, but I urge you to stay at home, especially for the sake of seniors,” he said.

The measures include closing cemeteries for three days, urging business owners to allow employees to work from home and urging older citizens to remain at home.

Health Minister Adam Niedzielski told Polish news channel TVN24 on Friday that he looked with “great concern” at the protests and urged people to isolate themselves from those taking part, saying they could be more exposed to Covid-19.

On Friday, Poland recorded 21,629 new coronavirus cases, marking another record high in the country, where case counts have tripled in less than a month. A further 202 deaths were also reported by the Polish Health Ministry, with the total number of confirmed infections in the country surpassing 340,000.

CNN’s Zahid Mahmood contributed to this report.

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