In Attack on Shushi, Sourp Ghazanchetsots Church is Damaged

Russian journalists injured in the blast. One in critical condition

Azerbaijani forces have bombarded the Holy Savior Cathedral, also known as Ghazanchetsots, the symbol of the city of Shushi in Artsakh.

The Artsakh authorities released images of the heavy damages from the church.

Built around 1868 to 1887,the cathedral is the seat of the Diocese of Artsakh of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Standing at over 115 feet tall, this cathedral is an iconic landmark of Sushi and Artsakh.

A group of Russian journalists have been injured as a result of the Azerbaijani bombardment of the church, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

One of the reporters is in critical condition, said Hovannes Movsisyan of the Armenian Unified Infocenter in a Facebook post. “According to the preliminary information from Stepanakert, the Russian journalist is in surgery.’’

A journalist, identified as Yuri Petrovich, is struggling for his life.

Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan called the bombing of the church “vandalism against God.”

“The Holy Ghazanchetsots Church of Shushi also became a target for the terrorists. This manifestation of vandalism is against the laws of humanity and God. We will rebuild it,” President Harutyunyan said in a Facebook post.

The bombing of the Holy Savior Cathedral, also known as Ghazanchetsots, the seat of the Artsakh Diocese in Shushi is the signature of the Islamic State terrorist organization, Primate Archbishop Pargev Martirosyan told Armenpress.

“They are bombarding our spiritual values, when we, are restoring and preserving mosques,” said Matrtirosyan.

The Holy See of Etchmiadzin condemned what it called Azerbaijan’s ongoing policy “aimed at the eviction of from Artsakh, and the destruction of the Armenian cultural presence” in a statement.

“The Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin condemns and considers this incident as an consequence of extreme religious intolerance; and calls upon church leaders, the international community and organizations, and ecumenical and inter-religious organizations, to raise a resolute voice for the cessation of bloodshed, the protection of the right of a free and independent life of the people of Artsakh, and the preservation of ancient cultural heritage and its testaments,” said the statement.

Representative Frank Pallone, the co-chair of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, in a Twitter post called the bombing of Ghazanchetots “abhorrent.”

“The intentional targeting of civilian targets by Azeri forces, including the historic Ghazanchetsots Cathedral, is abhorrent and deserves international condemnation. I am saddened by this news after having the pleasure of visiting this treasure last year,” Pallone said on Twitter.

Pallone was part of a Congressional delegation that visited Artsakh last year. During a press conference on the steps of the Gazanchetsots Cathedral, he proclaimed that “Artsakh must stay Armenian,” adding that the Republic of Artsakh is a state just like the United States and should enjoy the same rights as all nations in the international community.

While at Ghazachetsots last year, Pallone lit candles and prayed at the historic cathedral.

“This is another crime of the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan, manifesting its inhumane nature. This action fully fits into its policy of Armenophobia developed for decades,” said a statement by ’s Foreign Ministry.

“Azerbaijan, which has completely destroyed Armenian cultural heritage in Nakhichevan and in other parts of the historical homeland of the Armenian people, now throughout the ongoing military aggression against Artsakh is trying to deprive Armenians of Artsakh of their homeland and historical memory,” added the foreign ministry.

“With these actions Azerbaijan mimicking the behavior of its newly-found allies—the notorious international terrorist organizations that are responsible for destruction of the numerous historical-cultural monuments in the Middle East,” emphasized the ministry.

“We condemn in the strongest terms this heinous crime by Azerbaijan, which is also a challenge to the entire civilized world,” official Yerevan said. “To this end, we remind the Azerbaijani military-political authorities that targeting houses of worship, religious sites and cultural monuments is a war crime as enshrined in international law, the responsibility for which has no statute of limitations.”

The Artsakh Foreign Ministry condemned attack calling it a characteristic trait of terrorist organizations, saying Azerbaijan’s targeting of the cathedral constitutes a war crime.

“The deliberate destruction of historical, cultural and religious sites is a characteristic and notorious signature of international terrorist organizations. Suffice it to recall the destruction of the Buddha statues of Bamiyan by the Taliban, as well as the destruction of the Monumental Arch in Palmyra and the Armenian Church of Holy Martyrs in Deir ez-Zor by ISIS fighters in Syria,” it added.

“The attack on the Church of the Holy All-Savior in the city of Shushi demonstrates that the criminal trifecta of Azerbaijan, Turkey and terrorist organizations, which unleashed an aggression against the Republic of Artsakh, are united not only by common goals, but also by a common system of values and criminal methods of warfare,” added the Artsakh Foreign Ministry.

Official Stepanakert said that attack on Ghazachetsots “once again emphasized that under the circumstances of Azerbaijan’s open denial of the principles of humanity and universal values, the international recognition of the independence of the Republic of Artsakh is the most effective way to ensure the security of the people of Artsakh, the realization of their fundamental rights and the preservation of Artsakh’s cultural heritage.”

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