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War returns to Nagorno-Karabakh

IN ONE VIDEO, an Azerbaijani tank stands in flames. In another, an Armenian one is pulverised by a drone. A hail of gunfire cuts into troops scaling a hillside. One of the world’s most intractable conflicts, over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, has blown up again, threatening to plunge Armenia and Azerbaijan into full-scale war. By the time The Economist went to press on October 1st, more than 100 people had been killed in five days of fighting.

Both sides blame the other for the violence, though it seems Azerbaijan had been preparing an offensive to recover at least part of Nagorno-Karabakh for some time. The fighting has awakened memories of a war that devastated the region in the 1990s. Missiles have rained down on Armenian positions across the separatist enclave, including Stepanakert, its main city. Azerbaijan said it had taken several villages. Both countries declared martial law and mobilised troops. Armenia accused Turkey, Azerbaijan’s main ally, of shooting down one of its warplanes; Turkish officials denied it.

Nagorno-Karabakh was part of Azerbaijan under the Soviet Union. As the empire crumbled, clashes broke out between its Armenian majority, which sought union with Armenia or independence, and its Azerbaijani minority. This descended into a war that saw atrocities on both...

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