Two Azerbaijani army soldiers were reportedly killed on Tuesday in what the Defense Ministry in Baku called a ceasefire violation by Armenian forces.
Azerbaijani news agencies cited the ministry’s press service as saying that one of them, 19-year-old conscript Sanan Alizade, was shot dead near the southeastern edge of Nagorno-Karabakh.
They did not specify whether the other casualty, Lieutenant Tural Askerov, was killed in the same incident or at another section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontlines. The Azerbaijani military said only that both servicemen died as a result of “a violation of the ceasefire regime by the Armenian side.”
Karabakh’s Armenia-backed army denied that its forces shot and killed any Azerbaijani soldiers on Tuesday. The army spokesman, Senor Hasratian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that they are strictly adhering to the ceasefire fire regime and open fire only in response to major Azerbaijani truce violations. There have been no such violations this week, Hasratian said.
In a weekend written statement, the Karabakh Defense Army said that Azerbaijani troops fired nearly 1,000 gunshots towards its frontline positions around the disputed territory from January 27 through February 2. It reported no Armenian casualties.
Truce violations along the “line of contact” around Karabakh as well as the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan appear to have become more frequent in recent years, highlighting the increased risk of another Armenian-Azerbaijani war. Still, neither side reported deadly incidents in the last few months, until Tuesday’s deaths.
Military authorities in Stepanakert say that two Armenian soldiers were shot dead by Azerbaijani snipers on the Karabakh frontline in the course of 2012, compared with 11 such cases reported in 2011. General Movses Hakobian, the Karabakh army commander, has attributed the lower combat death toll to “large-scale work to reinforce frontline positions.”
Armenian military fortifications along the Armenian-Azerbaijani were also reportedly beefed up last year.