Armenia accused Azerbaijan of again heightening tensions in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on Saturday after two Armenian soldiers were killed in what it said were overnight Azerbaijani armed incursions near Karabakh.
The Karabakh Armenian army said that Karen Grigorian and Vartan Mkrtchian were shot dead and another soldier, Volodya Harutiunian, wounded while repelling Azerbaijani commando raids at two sections of “the line of contact.” It said that “the enemy suffered losses and was pushed back to its starting positions.”
The Azerbaijani military was quick to deny attacking Armenian frontline positions. It said at the same time that its troops are “seriously preparing for the liberation of occupied territories.”
Armenia’s Defense Ministry, meanwhile, praised the “vigilant and coordinated” actions of Karabakh Armenian forces during the incident. “Detachments of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s Defense Army are in full control of the situation along the entire Line of Contact,” it said in a statement.
The statement strongly condemned Baku’s “irresponsible policy effectively renewed right from the beginning of 2015” and urged the international community and the U.S., Russian and French mediators in particular to do the same. “Any provocation by Azerbaijan’s leadership will be strictly punished and will lead to numerous casualties in the Azerbaijani armed forces in 2015 as well,” it warned.
The ministry appeared to allude to a sharp escalation in early August of tensions on the frontline around Karabakh and Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan, which raised more fears of a full-blown war. The upsurge in truce violations led Russian President Vladimir Putin to host an emergency summit of his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts.
Throughout 2014 the military authorities in Yerevan and Stepanakert reported growing instances of Azerbaijani incursions and other truce violations, which left 28 Armenian soldiers dead. The Armenian combat death toll stood at only 7 in 2013.
Citing reports by Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry and media, the Armenian defense news website Razm.info reported that at least 32 Azerbaijani soldiers died in action in 2014, sharply up from 11 combat deaths reported in 2013. Fourteen of them were killed in two firefights in early August. According to the Azerbaijani army, three other soldiers serving near the Karabakh frontline “accidentally” shot and killed themselves in the following days.