After the assault rumors spread in Baku that the Armenian soldiers seized Khojalu and made savage reprisals against the settlers of the village, saving neither women nor children. Mutalibov immediately called the ministers of interior T. Kerimov and state security I. Husseinov to his place, who confirmed the rumors about the death of many people.
Moreover, after getting informed about the mass killings of Azerbaijanis in Khojalu, the President of Azerbaijan A. Mutalibov called with the NKR authorities in Stepanakert. In the frequently referred work by K. Stolyarov the author cites an interesting talk between Mutalibov and the President of the Supreme Soviet of NKR A. Mkrtchyan: “What war is it?! Even the fascists wouldn’t afford themselves such atrocities against the civilians!” According to Stolyarov, during the talk Mutalibov had mentioned a number of 800 to 1000 people killed. To this A. Mrtchyan replied at a loss: “What are you speaking about, the population was given a corridor. They left Khojalu before the seizure of the village. Part of your people had left for Stepanakert and they are with us right now. We feed them, though we lack food ourselves. So make it out, you are misinformed.” Mutalibov brings the same talk in an interview given to a Czech journalist Dana Mazalova that was later reprinted in the Moscow press.34
After the telephone talk with A. Mktrchyan and the Minister of Interior of NKR A. Isagulov, it is likely that Mutalibov, who did not trust the Armenian side, decided to send a group of journalists to check the fact objectively.
A group of journalist from Baku and abroad was nearby during the studies period, in the town of Aghdam. The President of Azerbaijan, negotiating and getting the consent from Ye. Shaposhnikov beforehand, further called the commander of the Transcaucasus Military District V. Patrikeev, who allotted two helicopters to deliver the journalists to Khojalu.
The first flight of the helicopter with Azerbaijani journalists on board was made on February 29 1992. Interesting to notice, the journalists, informed about mass killings of Azerbaijanis in Khojalu, initially flied there. Finding nothing to confirm the information, they returned. In the nearby of the Armenian village of Nakhijevanik they saw tens of bodies of the Khojalu defenders, who had died during the night fight.
Thus, before February 29 the mass killings of Azerbaijanis were those several tens of Azerbaijani soldiers and some civilians, died nearby the village of Nakhijevanik. How and why they were killed? It is worth mentioning that the rumors about the mass killings of the Khojalu settlers were spread in Baku well before the beginning of the assault.35
Many things about the developments nearby Nakhijevanik are clarified by an interesting detail, which one can find in the memories of a witness Suleyman Abbasov, who was among the group of the Khojalu inhabitants pulling out. Among other things he said: “We together with a part of the inhabitants reached the village of Nakhijevanik hoping to find asylum there: before it we were informed through a portable transmitter the village was seized from Armenian combatants. We heard the first shots… A short fighting set in, and we managed to break through the covering force.” (The emphasizing is ours – H.D., L.M-Sh.)36 As we can see the pulling out Azerbaijanis were simply deceived from Aghdam through a portable transmitter and were directed toward the Armenian stations by the village of Nakhijevanik, thus provoking a clash with the Armenian stations defending the village. Armeinan witnesses from the volunteer corps soldiers of Nakhijevanik confirm: the impression was that the group of Azerbaijani soldiers surrendering from Khojalu deliberately turned to their stations and catched the unaware of the defending villagers. As a result of the clash two villagers among the defending were killed and 10 wounded.
A reasonable question arises: did Armenians need create conditions for the Khojalu people to move out of the siege only to let the surrendering Azerbaijani forces to kill the defenders of Armenian villages armed with hunting rifles? Of course no. And then: what was the Aghdamis’ purpose to direct the Khojalu forces toward a deliberately wrong road full of dangers?
We believe, there was no purpose in that. The Aghdam detachments of Azerbaijanis were simply trying to convince the Khojalu people, that they were making all the efforts to defend Khojalu, and that they had already advanced in that direction. We suppose neither the Aghdamis believed Armenians would indeed let the Khojalu forces out of the siege. And lastly, we believe, the Khojalu people were shot by the Aghdamis themselves, likely having taken them for the attacking Armenians.
The fact that the people were fired point-blank, i.e. from the side of Aghdam is evidenced by the witnesses. Mayor of Khojalu Elman Mamedov: “…the few defenders of the town and the civilians remaining by that time alive, surrendered to the forest, wading the bitter river. The night through our carts with women, children, and elderly, wounded was making its way through the forest. By the morning we reached the edge of the wood – ahead there were the fields of the Armenian village of Nakhijevanik. Here we faced a point-blank fire of machine guns and grenade cup discharges. The forceless live targets were fired grimly. Many of my countrymen and relatives died here. Me and my seven friends, armed with guns, were trying to shield them. Although unsuccessfully. Completely isolated we laid down on the snow in the gorge for twelve hours, having no opportunity even to raise head because of the shooting. ” 37
Deputy Commander of the helicopter squadron Major Leonid Kravets says: “On February 26th I was taking away the wounded from Stepanakert and was on my way back through the Askeran gates. I saw some bright points beneath. I lost height and there my flight engineer shouted: “Look, women and children over there.” I saw some two hundred killed spread across the slope, armed people wandering among them… As is considered, those were refugees from Khojalu. Somewhere further than 800 meters before the front stations of Azerbaijanis an ambush was waiting for them. (The emphasizing is ours – H.D., L.M.-Sh.) A little girl narrowly escaped.”38
How did the poorly armed small number of Armenian self-defense forces of Nakhijevanik managed to shoot down for several hours the civilians right under the nose of the Azerbaijani positions nearby Aghdam and stroll about on a territory accessible for any rifle weapon? Worthy to mention, the place is lowland with no natural shelters. The brought propositions quite vividly speak for themselves.
Further. The majority of the perished inhabitants of Khojalu were killed 10-12 kilometers from Khojalu itself, two-three kilometers from Aghdam, where, as already shown, a vast number of troops and ammunition was concentrated. This very fact is being thoroughly hidden by the Azerbaijani propagandists, or simply is not being mentioned. It is absolutely obvious that with the availability of such arsenals in Aghdam the Armenians were simply unable to hide so skillfully, first, to kill coolly the refugees from Khojalu, and then, to return in several days to profane the bodies. Presumably, the answers to the raised questions are known only to the activists of the PFA. We will simply try to focus the reader’s attention on facts.
The corridor to Aghdam, allotted by the Armenians for the inhabitants of Khojalu, naturally, left aside the Armenian settlements. The clash between the surrendering Khojalu fighters and the defenders of Nakhijevanik village was a surprise to both sides.
The armed detachments of Aghdam in fact did advanced the night from 25th to 26th of February 1992, but no one attacked either Nakhijevanik or any other Armenian village during the days under study. Very important to mention, that the armed forces advanced from Aghdam moved forward very slightly. Just to the place where the bodies of Khojalu people were found. They settled there for a long time, up to 1993, when Armenians destroyed the fire emplacements already in Aghdam.
Curiously, according to K. Stolyarov the rumor about the seizure of Khojalu and the mass killings of its inhabitants spread in Baku in evening of February 25th, i.e. several hours before the beginning of the assault or even the artillery shooting (as mentioned above, the last started in 23:00, 30 minutes before the assault).39 Someone in Baku had likely been in a haste to spread the information. Neither the Minister of Interior T. Kerimov, nor the Minister of Security V. Huseinov, according to their own assurances, was unable to identify the sources of the information. And then A. Mutalibov decided to call the President of the Supreme Soviet of NKR A. Mkrtchyan. It was the morning of February 26th.
The press service of Ministry of Interior of Azerbaijan, realizing that the loss of Khojalu meant political fiasco for Mutalibov, in the evening of the same day announced that “the attack of the Armenian fighters and the 366th regiment of the former Soviet Army on Khojalu is repelled and the settlement is controlled by the Azerbaijani forces again.”
However, the information service of the Popular Front of Azerbaijan denied this information, and informed that “two lorries overflowed by corpses of the killed inhabitants of Khojalu arrived in Aghdam”. It also informed, that among others who were killed during the defense fighting for Khojalu were the chief of the airport, public prosecutor and mayor of city. After the fall of Khojalu in Baku the explosive situation was created.40
President Mutalibov who in the beginning of March 1992 sent a telegram to the presidents of the states of CIS, having offered to create an interstate commission “for investigation of the genocide of the Azerbaijani population of Khojalu”41, literally one month after, in the interview to Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta said the following: “As the survived Khojalu dwellers speak, all of that was organized to have a reason for my resignation. I do not think, that the Armenians, who have very precise and professional approach to similar situations, could allow Azerbaijanis to have documents denouncing them in fascist actions. It is possible to assume, that someone was interested in showing these shots later on the session of the Supreme Soviet and to blame me in all those things.”42
As Kiril Stolyarov writes later, when Ayaz Mutalibov was ousted from presidency, a well-known Azerbaijani TV journalist Chingiz Mustafayev telling him about the flight to Khojalu, mentioned, that “he did not manage to shot corpses in Kodjalu, for there was nothing looked even like dead bodies there” (italics ours -. H. D., L-M Sh.). During the first flight the journalists recorded only a couple of dozens of corpses of Azerbaijani soldiers found near of Armenian village of Nakhijevanik.43 However, the majority of corpses were found near Aghdam and this was recorded on a video camera on February 29 in the first time and, on March 2 in second time. These very shots were shown in Baku at the session of Milli Majlis and later on many TV channels of the world, as a proof of mass murder of the Azerbaijani population of Khojalu.
Let’s leave emotions in the party. The single fact that both parts of the film were shot in the presence of numerous Azerbaijani officials in the civilian dresses and military uniform (they are present constantly in the film), is the evidence that the «dead field» territory was under the control of the Azerbaijani armed formations. Otherwise one should assume, that the Armenians left a humanitarian corridor for Azerbaijanis from Khojalu (otherwise they simply could not flee from the village), then hunted them out to kill nearby Aghdam and then to retreat (we shall not forget that in Aghdam powerful military units were deployed).
After it the same Armenians seized again the same territory only to mutilate the dead bodies and to recede again, once again leaving Azeri cameramen to record a second film this time with solid evidence of brutalities of Armenians giving them an opportunity to show all these worldwide as a proof of real nature of “Armenian bloodsuckers”.
The assumption that Armenian forces had cold-bloodily planned and carried out such a sophisticated operation to murder unarmed civilians whom they first had let out safely from the battle zone could arise only in the inflamed imagination of a man-hater.
On the other hand, the corpses of the people were really mutilated. During the second flight in the area of the mass murder, already on March 2, 1992, the journalists noticed, that in comparison with the first survey, the positions of bodies on the ground and the degree of damages and wounds, had changed significantly. Having noticed that corpses were damaged and moved comparing with the initial survey Chingiz Mustafaev (Fuat Ogly) informed about this President of Azerbaijan, who at the time obviously was aware about the reasons of the tragedy. President A. Mutalibov answered really with prophetic words: “Chingiz, don’t tell a word to anybody that you noticed something wrong: otherwise you will be killed”.44
The President’s warning did not keep Mustafaev from initiating an independent journalistic investigation of the tragedy, having doubted about the “Armenian trace” of the mass killings.
The courageous journalist managed only to send two materials Moscow based DR PRESS information agency, in which he informed about his suspicions about the involvement of Azerbaijani circles in this crime. Soon Chengiz Mustafaev was killed in the same field where he continued his investigation, far from the frontline…
The same fate befell also the field commander Ala Yakub, who stated in the presence of informer that “…he could shed light on the massacre at Nakhijevanik village and bring essential details about the crash of the helicopter in the Karabakh sky with numerous statesmen on board. After the Popular Front of Azerbaijan came to power in summer 1992 he was arrested and died in the jail under the obscure circumstances…”.45
However let’s again listen to the former President A. Mutalibov who “would not like his name in the history of Azerbaijan to be connected with this event”.46 He fairly specified, that after the humanitarian corridor was left for exodus of the Khojalu inhabitants, it was meaningless to shoot on the leaving people, “… especially in the territory close to Aghdam, where by that time enough forces were concentrated to come and help the people…”47
The videocassette of Chingiz Mustafaev with the bodies of the killed Azeris, initially was shown during the session of the Supreme Soviet of Azerbaijan, chaired then by Yakub Mamedov. Then they were shown on the Azerbaijani TV, and soon by other foreign TV channels. In Baku this film caused a wave of indignation against the President.
This indignation PFA party member used as an advantage, for whom important was not the fact of the mass murder of the people near Aghdam, but “the successful pretext to convert the anger of Azerbaijanis against the President”.48 By the way, in his speech on the session President Mutalibov, who at that time already guessed about the real culprits of the tragedy, never accused the Armenians for implementing the mass murder.
On March 6, 1992, i.e. in ten days after the massacre Mutalibov resigned. Soon afterwards, the ex-President overtly expressed doubts about the Armenian responsibility for Khojalu killings, hinting on the fact that some of the Azeri inhabitants might have actually been killed by Azeri forces in order to discredit him.49
The correspondent of the Azerbaijani newspaper Bakinski rabochi Ibrahim Shukurov has written: “… There are lots of questions. And all of them are reduced to one: why the act of genocide became possible in Khojalu? Certainly, not in the last instance the causes of tragedy became our failures on the Karabakh battlefields. The series of military defeats resulted in handing over one settlement after another. And all of them were strategically important. But it is necessary not to rule out the factor of unfair political games around Nagorno-Karabakh. It is obvious, that someone was very much interested in breaking the peacekeeping mission of Velayati. The assault of Khojalu was undertaken at the moment when the agreement on ceasefire was reached…” 50
In a month, in the beginning of May, when the pre-election campaign in Azerbaijan was in its culmination, the news about fall of city of Shushi came. This gave an opportunity for ex-Communist Supreme Soviet to cancel Mutalibov’s resignation on May 14, 1992, removing all accusations for Khojalu. The Milli Majlis was dissolved.
Soon after restoration in his former rights, A. Mutalibov contacted with Moscow and in a telephone conversation with Russian Marshal of Air Forces Yevgeni Shaposhnikov said the following: “Believe me, Elchibey is a Pan-Turkist fanatic zealous to be embraced by Ankara, where, as far as I am aware, they promised all kind of assistance.” 51
Very soon Mutalibov again was removed from his office. On the next day the PFA supporters seized the building of the Supreme Soviet and took the presidential palace, causing Mutalibov to flee to Moscow.
Ayaz Mutalibov was right. Ankara was not pleased with his person, especially after Mutalibov signed an agreement to join the newly created Commonwealth of Independent States. During the first months after the demise of the USSR, Turkey, supported by the West, vigorously tried to present itself as a model for nation-building for former Soviet Muslim republics. In the person of the PFA the Turkish side found an important partner for strengthening its influence in Azerbaijan.
In this connection the news published in the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet of May 17, 1992, 2 days after Mutalibov’s second overthrow from his office, is a sensation. In the front-page of the newspaper the words of high ranking officials from the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs were cited, saying “Our boys have done it“.52 It is not difficult to guess who were those boys.
Here quite natural and logical question arises: maybe the same “Turkish boys” from Turkey’s secret services stand behind the Khojalu massacre? It is absolutely evident that in this case Ankara by one stone killed at least three birds.
First, after Armenia proclaimed independence, Turkey became concerned with the possibility of activization the Armenian Diaspora led policy of official recognition of Armenian Genocide carried out by the Ottoman Turkish government in 1915-1918 and the perspective of possible reparations to the ancestors of the victims. From this point of view the representation of the Armenians as people inclined to mass murders, suited Turkey well, which could find in Khojalu events a convenient occasion for creation of opposite image.
Secondly, as was already mentioned above, the pro-Russian President of Azerbaijan Ayaz Mutalibov was not the right person for Ankara, which would prefer to see obviously a pro-Turkish president in his place elected from the Popular Front of Azerbaijan. Abulfaz Elchibey, the leader of PFA, did not hide his sympathies to all Turkish, constantly making statements in aggressive Pan-Turkist spirit.
The involvement of the Turkish secret agents in operations on correcting of the political leadership of Azerbaijan dates back to 1918, and it is possible to consider that the Febraury-May events of 1992 can be viewed as the first and well-planned attempt for revival of those traditions. Sufficient to say that when Heydar Aliev came to power in Azerbaijan in the late 1993, some of his internal and external policy steps displeased Turkish secret services, which undertook at least two assassination attempts.
The first attempt was so impertinent and overt that in 1995, during her official visit to Baku the Prime Minister of Turkey Tansu Ciller had to personally apologize before the President of Azerbaijan “for uncontrollable behavior of the rightists.” 53
The second attempt took place one year later in 1996, and this time the Azerbaijani security service arrested the several persons, directly connected with special services of Turkey.54
Interestingly, on February 25 the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran Ali Akbar Velayati paid a visit to Baku with mediation mission. In his schedule a visit to Stepanakert was included to negotiate with the officials of Karabakh. In the morning of February 27 the plane with Velayati on board took off for capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, but his plane landed in Aghdam.
At that moment, when Khojalu already two days was under the complete control of the Armenian forces, Rahim Kaziev, the head of extraordinary headquarters of defense of Shushi in a telephone conversation informed Baku officials that “the fights for Khojalu still continue” and that “the decision about the cease-fire (for security reasons during Velayati’s visit) is wrong in a situation when Armenians occupied Khojalu and will hardly be observed”.55 In this message PFA member obviously tried to exclude the Iranian side from the mediatory attempts and particularly to frustrate A. Velayati’s mission.
The strengthening the Iranian influence in Azerbaijan, and particularly Teheran’s occurrence with a role of the mediation in settlement of Karabakh problem, obviously did not suit Ankara. The latter tried to spread its influence in the newly independent Muslim states and to create Union of Turkic-speaking states under its leadership.
And last but not least, after gaining independence by Armenia, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was considered by Ankara as an obstacle in the way for creating of an all-Turkic union “stretching from Adriatics to the Chinese wall”. For this reason and in this connection the Turkish side actively searched for a pretext for pressuring on Armenia trying to force it to comply with geopolitical concessions. Soon the Khojalu massacres were used as such pretexts.
On March 2, Minister of foreign affairs of Turkey Hikmet Cetin appeared with the statement for determination of the Turkish government to force the landing and examination of all planes flying to and from Armenia through the territory of Turkey. In this occasion the MFA of Turkey pointed out that such decision is justified by the CSCE final document adopted in Prague in February 1992.56
In his turn Chairman of Great National Assembly of Turkey Husamettin Cindoruk called the international community to condemn “the act of genocide implemented with special cruelty by Armenians against our brother Azerbaijanis.” 57
34 See Nezavisimaya gazeta, 02.04.1992
35 Kiril Stolyarov, op. cit. p. 253.
36 Cited as in Khojalu, Chronics of genocide, p. 31-32.
37 Zaur Kadimbekov, Tragedy in Khojalu, Pravda, 07.03.1992, Khojalu, Chronics of genocide, p. 29.
38 See Khojalu, Chronics of genocide, p. 124.
39 Compare with. Kiril Stolyarov, op. cit. p. 253, Report of Memorial, Nezavisimaya gazeta, 18.06.1992.
40 Nezavisimaya gazeta, 28.02.1992.
41 Khojalu, Chronics of Genocide, p. 19.
42 Nezavisimaya gazeta, 02.04.1992.
43 Kiril Stolyarov, op. cit. pp. 253-255.
44 Kiril Stolyarov, op. cit. p. 255.
46 Izvestia, 12.11.1992.
47 Nezavisimaya gazeta, 02.04.1992.
48 Kiril Stolyarov, op. cit. p. 257.
49 А. Zverev, Ethnic conflicts in Caucasus, 1988-1994, Сontested borders in Caucasus, Мoscow, 1996, р. 32.
50 Ibrahim Shukurov, Who will answer for genocide? Bakinski rabochi, 03.03.1992, see Khojalu: chronics of genocide, р. 137.
51 Kiril Stolyarov, op. cit. pp. 279.
52 Aziz Utkan, Ankara: Bizim Çoçuklar başardi, Hürriyet, Istanbul, 17.05.1992
53 See Turkish Daily News, 14.04.1995.
54 Cumhuriyet, Ankara, 23.06.1996, М. Feygan, Transcaucasus knot, Novij mir, Moscow, 1998, No. 8, p. 147.
55 Мamed Safarly, Fightings in Karabakh still continue, Nezavisimaya gazeta, 28.02.1992.
56 Аydin Mehtiyev. Turkey condemns genocide, Nezavisimaya gazeta, 05.03.1992.
57 IТАR-ТАSS, 05.03.1992.