Fury in Armenia as Baku displays war trophies

Yerevan (AFP) –


Armenia on Tuesday accused its historic rival Azerbaijan of fomenting ethnic hatred by displaying helmets of Armenian soldiers killed during their war last year.

A decades-long conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region erupted into all-out war in September, killing more than 6,000 people.

Six weeks of fighting ended in November with Armenia's defeat. Yerevan ceded swathes of territories to Baku under a Russian-backed ceasefire, which was seen in Armenia as a national humiliation.

On Monday, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev visited a "park of trophies" showcasing military equipment seized from Armenian troops during the war.

Hundreds of helmets of Armenian soldiers who had been killed were displayed in the park as well as wax mannequins of Armenian troops.

The park, due to be opened to the public shortly, sparked uproar in Armenia with ombudsman Arman Tatoyan saying it was "proof of genocidal policy".

"The opening of such a 'park' clearly confirms institutional hatred towards Armenians in Azerbaijan."

This sentiment was shared by most people in Yerevan, where mass anti-government protests have been held regularly against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan's decision to agree on the humiliating truce, leading him to call snap polls in June.

"This is true fascism," 41-year-old historian Mher Barsegyan told AFP. The park "recalls evidence of Hitler's barbarism that is exhibited in museums around the world."

Ethnic Armenian separatists declared independence for Nagorno-Karabakh and seized control of the region in a brutal war in the 1990s that left tens of thousands dead and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.

Baku and Yerevan have traded accusations of war crimes after the conflict -- which had been largely dormant for decades -- re-erupted last September.