The European Union has confirmed that its monitoring mission in Armenia was targeted by Azerbaijani fire. On August 15, Armenia’s Defense Ministry reported that the Azerbaijani armed forces fired at EU observers near Verin Shorzha village in the Gegharkunik province. The European Union Mission in Armenia (EUMA) denied the report, stating that none of its patrols had been the target of shooting. However, after a video of an EU patrol sheltering in a bunker appeared on social media, the EU released a “Correcting Statement,” stating, “We confirm that EUMA patrol has been present to the shooting incident in our area of responsibility.”
In other EU news, the EUMA has denied Azerbaijani claims of Armenian military buildup along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. The EUMA said, based on its daily monitors of the security situation along the border, it saw “no unusual military movement or buildup, especially at the entrance to the Lachin Corridor.” On August 14, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry said that a “large amount of weapons, military equipment and personnel of the armed forces of Armenia have been accumulating along the un-demarcated border with Azerbaijan.” Armenian officials called the statement disinformation and reiterated that Armenia has no troops in Artsakh.
Journalists and civil society groups have directed mounting criticisms at RFE/RL’s Azerbaijan service, accusing the organization of bullying, financial mismanagement and favoritism. In the past two years, at least six journalists have been fired from the organization, while three have resigned in protest. Former employees have accused Ilkin Mammadov, the head of RFE/RL’s Azerbaijan service, of hiring journalists close to the government. Mammadov has led the organization from Prague since 2015, when Azerbaijan’s government shut down the Baku office. RFE/RL dismissed the accusations, stating it is “deeply concerned about unsubstantiated claims circulating on social media impugning our journalism in Azerbaijan.”
The American band The Killers is facing backlash from fans after inviting a Russian fan onstage during a concert in Georgia. Lead singer Brandon Flowers invited the fan onstage to play the drums. Flowers announced that the fan was Russian, and asked the crowd if it was okay to let him play. The crowd booed and whistled, cursing Russia and shouting, “Russia is an occupier!” Some concertgoers left the arena in protest. Flowers said the show should “bring people together” and that he sees the concertgoers as his “brothers and sisters.” The Killers later released an apology statement, stating that its message had not been political and “could be misconstrued.” Georgians overwhelmingly view Russia as the occupier of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and oppose Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.