At the end of 1991 and the beginning of 1992 the conflict turned into a military phase. Taking advantage of the political instability as a result of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and internal squabbles in Azerbaijan, Armenia initiated with the external military assistance combat operations in Nagorny Karabakh.
The first armed attack by the Republic of Armenia against the Republic of Azerbaijan after the independence of the two Republics – an attack in which organized military formations and armoured vehicles operated against Azerbaijani targets – occurred in February 1992, when the town of Khojaly in the Republic of Azerbaijan was notoriously overrun and its population was subjected to an unprecedented massacre. This bloody tragedy, which became known as the Khojaly genocide, involved the extermination or capture of the thousands of Azerbaijanis; the town was razed to the ground. Over the night from 25 to 26 February 1992 the Armenian armed forces with the help of the infantry guards regiment No.366 of the former USSR, the personnel of which was composed mainly of the Armenians, implemented the seizure of Khojaly. The inhabitants of Khojaly remained in the town before the tragic night tried to leave their houses after the beginning of the assault in the hope to find the way to the nearest place populated by the Azerbaijanis. But these plans have failed. Invaders destroyed Khojaly and with particular brutality implemented carnage over its peaceful population. As a result, 613 civilians were killed, including 106 women, 63 children and 70 elderly. Another 1,000 people were wounded and 1,275 taken hostage. To this day, 150 people from Khojaly remain missing.
As news and accounts of the atrocity surfaced, the level of brutality was revealed: atrocities by Armenian troops included scalping, beheading, bayoneting of pregnant women, and mutilation of bodies. Even children were not spared. The facts confirm that the intentional slaughter of the Khojaly town civilians on 25-26 February 1992 was directed to their mass extermination only because they were Azerbaijanis. The Khojaly town was chosen as a stage for further occupation and ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijani territories, striking terror into the hearts of people and creating panic and fear before the horrifying massacre.
In May 1992, Shusha, the Azerbaijani-populated administrative centre of the district within Nagorny Karabakh, and Lachyn, the district situated between Armenia and Nagorny Karabakh, were occupied. In 1993, the armed forces of Armenia captured another six districts of Azerbaijan around Nagorny Karabakh: Kalbajar (April 1993), Aghdam (July 1993), Jabrayil (August 1993), Gubadly (August 1993), Fuzuli (August 1993) and Zangilan (October 1993).
After the open assertion by Armenia in the late 1980s of its territorial claims on Azerbaijan and the launching of armed operations in the Nagorny Karabakh region of the Republic of Azerbaijan such well-known terrorist organizations as the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA), the Commandos of Justice of the Armenian Genocide, and the Armenian Revolutionary Army, transferred the centre of their activities from the countries of the Middle East, Western Europe and North America to the territory of the former USSR.
In all, as a result of terrorist acts against Azerbaijan carried out since the late 1980s by the Armenian secret service and some Armenian organizations closely connected with it, including criminal acts against road, rail, sea and air transport and ground communications, over 2,000 citizens of Azerbaijan have been killed, the majority of them women, the elderly and children.
Furthermore, there are unquestionable facts testifying about the active use by Armenia of mercenaries to attack Azerbaijan.
In sum, the ongoing armed conflict in and around the Nagorny Karabakh region of the Republic of Azerbaijan has resulted in the occupation of almost one-fifth of the territory of Azerbaijan and made approximately one out of every eight persons in the country an internally displaced person or refugee, 20,000 people were killed, 50,000 people were wounded or became invalids, about 5,000 citizens of Azerbaijan are still missing. It should be particularly emphasized that the Azerbaijani refugees and internally displaced persons were forced to flee because Armenia and its military forces had the clear aim of ethnic cleansing and of creating a mono-ethnic culture there.
On 12 May 1994, the ceasefire was established. However, Armenia continues to violate the truce. In addition to shelling and killing Azerbaijani soldiers along the cease-fire line, Armenians also attack civilians residing in the adjacent territories.
The aggression against the Republic of Azerbaijan has severely damaged the socio-economic sphere of the country. In the occupied territories six cities, 12 town type villages, 830 settlements, and hundreds of hospitals and medical facilities were burned or otherwise destroyed. As a result of aggression, hundreds of thousands of houses and apartments and thousands of community and medical buildings were destroyed or looted. Hundreds of libraries have been plundered and millions of books and valuable manuscripts have been burned or otherwise destroyed. Several state theatres, hundreds of clubs and dozens of musical schools have been destroyed. Several thousands of manufacturing, agricultural and other kinds of factories and plants have been pillaged. The hundred kilometers-long irrigation system has been totally destroyed. Flocks of several hundreds of thousands of sheep and dozens of thousands of cattle have been driven out of the occupied territories to Armenia. About 70% of the summer pastures of Azerbaijan remains in the occupied zone.
The regional infrastructure including hundreds of bridges, hundreds of kilometers of roads and thousands kilometers of water pipelines, thousands kilometers of gas pipelines and dozens of gas distribution stations have been destroyed.
The war against Azerbaijan has also had catastrophic consequences for its cultural heritage both in the occupied territories and in Armenia.
Contrary to the numerous statements of the official Yerevan that Armenia is not directly involved into the conflict with Azerbaijan and occupation of its territories, there are ample evidences testifying against such allegations and proving the direct military aggression of the Republic of Armenia against a sovereign state.
In reality, the actions of Armenia, up to and including the resort to force, constitute a violation of the fundamental norm of respect for the territorial integrity of states, as well as a violation of other relevant international legal principles, such as rule prohibiting the use of force.