On May 8, 1992 at 3.20 a.m. Armenian troops launched a campaign to seize Shusha city – the biggest Azerbaijani city in Nagorno Karabakh. Shusha was being shelled till 6.00 a.m. and afterwards approximately one thousand Armenian soldiers opened an attack on Shusha from three sides with support of about 40 armored vehicles of 366 Russian regiment earlier handed over to Armenians.
As military sources claim, Armenians widely used psychological pressure in this campaign being aware of suspiciousness of the Azeri side. On the eve of the attack Armenians called on the Azeris left to defend the city to save themselves, because “Shusha has been already sold.” Armenians were also informed about lack of discipline in the city and location of mine lines and because of this Armenian armored vehicles reached the city without any problems from Khankend.
According to Armenian sources, the operation to seize Shusha has been planned by Arkadii Ter-Tadevosian, colonel of Soviet Senior Intelligence Department, alias “Mountain Fox,” who that time commanded Armenian troops in Nagorno Karabakh.
Having made use of disorganization in Shusha, Armenians created a panic among population to hinder Azeris to organize defence. Meanwhile, witnesses say Armenians failed to fully seize the city during the first attack and street fighting continued within several hours. As reinforcements didn’t arrive, Azeri self-defence and active forces were forced to leave Shusha.
Azerbaijan Defence Ministry was not properly informed that time about a real state of affairs in the regions. During several days after Shusha’s seizure official sources still reported that street fighting is going on. However, Azeri army and Interior Ministry’s armored vehicles and live force sent to Shusha have not made an attempt to liberate Shusha. Lack of coordination between military and struggle for power between PFA and Mutalibov’s supporters in Baku have led to defeats on the front and actual surrender of a strategic city Lachin to Armenians.
There are numerous facts available that Russian sub-divisions, including Senior Intelligence Department’s troops dislocated in Georgia’s Lagodekhi city, fought on the Armenian side.
It is noteworthy that Armenians opened an attack on Shusha several hours after Armenian and Azerbaijani Presidents signed a peace agreement to settle the Karabakh conflict in Tehran through the mediation of Iranian President.
Shusha’s seizure has been used by some circles in Moscow to prevent Azerbaijan from being independent of Russia. During the first days following the seizure Russian generals and politicians have made it clear that the city could be returned, if Baku agrees to pursue proRussian foreign and domestic policy and if Azeri forces are subordinate to the CIS command.
President Ayaz Mutalibov, who returned to power on May 14, said in his interview with TURAN that Shusha’s seizure is “a wartime caprice” and hinted that the city will be soon liberated. However, Mutalibov was overthrown after less than a day and at the end of May, 1992 the Popular Front government started withdrawal of sixty-thousand-strong Russian military contingent from Azerbaijan.