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Azerbaijani Authorities Launch Probe Over Rally Amid Military Conflict With Armenia

A woman grieves at the grave of Azerbaijani Armed Forces Major General Polad Hashimov, who was killed in armed clashes on the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia, during his funeral in Baku on July 15.

BAKU -- Azerbaijani authorities have launched a criminal case against some participants of a large rally supporting the South Caucasus nation's armed forces amid an escalation of the military conflict with neighboring Armenia.

The Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor-General's Office said on July 15 that a group of individuals "violated public order" by attempting to enter the parliament building during the overnight rally.

“During a peaceful rally in a patriotic spirit, a group of provocateurs committed acts that led to a gross violation of public order, resisted security officers and used force against them. As a result, several police officers received injuries of varying severity, and police vehicles were seriously damaged.... A criminal case was launched into the situation," the joint statement said.

The statement added that public order violations in the country were inadmissible "during a sensitive period when heavy battles are taking place on the contact line" with Armenia. It also stressed that mass gatherings of people during the coronavirus pandemic can lead to dire consequences.

Overnight on July 14-15, hundreds marched in Baku in support of the Azerbaijani military and the country's leadership.

During the protest, a group entered the parliament building but was quickly removed by police, who then used water cannons, tear gas, and batons to disperse those gathered in front the building.

Police detained several protesters.

The situation on the northern part of the Azerbaijani-Armenian border escalated on July 12. The two neighbors, who fought a war in 1988-94 over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, have blamed each other for the latest flare-up that has left at least 16 dead so far.

Baku has accused Armenian forces of attempting to attack Azerbaijani positions using artillery, while Yerevan has blamed the Azerbaijani military of attempts to enter Armenian territory.

Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said on July 14 that Major General Polad Hasimov and Colonel Ilqar Mirzayev were among those killed on the Azerbaijani side in the fresh fighting.

Armenia's Defense Ministry also said four of its servicemen, including a major and a captain, had been killed in the July 14 skirmishes.

Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent districts of Azerbaijan were seized by Armenian-backed separatists who declared independence amid a 1988-94 conflict that killed at least 30,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands.

Since a fragile, Russian-brokered truce in 1994, the region has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces that Azerbaijan says include troops supplied by Armenia. The region's claim to independence has not been recognized by any country.

Since then, periodic skirmishes have taken place in the region.

Russia, the United States, and France are the co-chairs of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which acts as a mediator in resolving the crisis. The group has been struggling for years to mediate a solution.