The Armenian military will retaliate against Azerbaijan for the latest killing of an Armenian soldier on “the line contact” around Nagorno-Karabakh, Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said on Wednesday.
Ohanian spoke of an unprecedented upsurge in ceasefire violations there as he and top Armenian army generals attended the state funeral of Sergeant Armen Hovannisian.
Hovannisian, 19, received full military honors while being laid to rest at the Yerablur military cemetery in Yerevan. Scores of ordinary Armenians also took part in the funeral procession.
“For the past two days tension [along the frontline has been at a peak level,” Ohanian told reporters after the ceremony. “Gunshots fired by the enemy are numerous. There have never been so many gunshots before. Clearly, they are worried about retaliation.”
“There will definitely be retaliation. We will choose the right moment … We will respond to every provocation,” he said.
Ohanian referred to the dead soldier as a national hero, saying that Hovannisian and a dozen of his comrades fought back an Azerbaijani commando raid on Karabakh Armenian frontline positions on the night from Sunday to Monday. The minister claimed that the Azerbaijani forces suffered “severe losses” in the assault.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry has denied that any deadly fighting took place there. The ministry said on Tuesday, though, that four Azerbaijani soldiers were seriously injured in non-combat incidents “in the frontline zone.” It announced the following day that another soldier died of heart failure.
The Armenian military and observers say that Baku routinely underreports its combat casualties, attributing fatalities to other causes.