One Armenian soldier has been killed in the latest ceasefire violation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” around Nagorno-Karabakh, military authorities in Stepanakert and Yerevan said on Friday.
They said Vitaly Igitian, 22, was shot dead by sniper fire from Azerbaijani army positions southeast of the disputed territory on Thursday evening.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry condemned the skirmish as an Azerbaijani attempt to “escalate the situation along the Armenian-Azerbaijani Line of Contact by means of snipers.” In a written statement, it also accused Baku of trying to scuttle international efforts to resolve the Karabakh conflict.
The Armenian side “will take appropriate military-diplomatic and military measures to neutralize activities of Azerbaijani army snipers,” the statement added without elaboration.
A separate ministry statement quoted Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian as telling OSCE officials in Yerevan on Friday that Armenian troops “will considerably step up their efforts to neutralize Azerbaijani snipers.”
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry, meanwhile, denied that Igitian was killed by its forces, saying that there were no truce violations in the area close to the Iranian border. The APA news agency quoted ministry spokesman Eldar Sabiroglu as claiming that he died in a shootout with fellow Karabakh Armenian soldiers.
Deadly skirmishes along the frontline appear to have been more frequent in recent months. The situation has been particularly volatile on its northeastern section encompassing a small part of Karabakh’s northern Martakert district. At least one Armenian and four Azerbaijani soldiers were killed there last month.
The U.S., Russian and French diplomats mediating Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks have condemned such incidents, urging the conflicting parties to withdraw snipers from their frontline positions and thus bolster the ceasefire regime. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon echoed those calls late last month.
The sniper withdrawal is backed Yerevan and Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian leadership but rejected by Baku. “Snipers mostly operate on the Armenian side,” Sabiroglu said recently.