By Hrach Melkumian
The Armenian military accused Azerbaijani forces on Wednesday of continuing to violate the ceasefire regime in the westernmost section of the heavily militarized border between the two South Caucasus states.
Echoing statements by the Defense Ministry in Yerevan, military commanders in Armenia’s northeastern Tavush province said their border posts have been under daily automatic gunfire from Azerbaijani positions for more than a week. They insisted that their troops are not returning fire to prevent the situation from escalating further.
“I have just been informed that our positions were again fired upon,” Major Tigran Gevorgian, chief of staff of an Armenian army regiment stationed in the regional capital Ijevan, told RFE/RL. “We registered five such incidents yesterday.”
“There have been no cases of truce violation from our side,” he said. “We haven’t even returned fire. But we have increased our vigilance and are ready to defend our land at any moment.”
One of Gevorgian’s soldiers, the 19-year-old Arsen Zakevosian, was wounded and died while being transported to a military hospital in Ijevan on Friday from his unit’s positions just outside the border village of Kayan. The Armenian military says it has not suffered any other casualties so far.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry has not reported any fighting in the area close to eastern Georgia and denies the Armenian accusations. It said on Monday that the Armenians themselves breached the truce by killing an Azerbaijani army conscript in a section of the frontline east of Nagorno-Karabakh. Karabakh Armenian forces dismissed the claims.
Residents of Kayan, meanwhile, confirmed that gunshots on the border have been more frequent in recent days. “We are all used to shootings,” said Arsen Ghazarian whose family house is located on the edge of the village, just meters from an army roadblock.
“The Azerbaijanis shoot all the time,” said one of his neighbors, Telman Pirumian. “Even small children are not quite scared of that.”
Susanna, an elderly villager, harked back to the pre-war Soviet years when local residents lived in peace with their Azerbaijani neighbors and took pride in Kayan’s status as the main gateway to Armenia. “We could go to Tbilisi and any other place from here. But now the road [running through Kayan] is closed. We are in quarantine.”