Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian visited “the line of contact” east of Nagorno-Karabakh and inspected Armenian military positions there on Wednesday at the end of a two-day trip to the disputed territory.
Photographs released by the Armenian government showed a uniform-clad Abrahamian walking through trenches and talking to soldiers on frontline duty. He was accompanied by General Movses Hakobian, the commander of the Karabakh Armenian army, and other top military officials.
“It is very important to be with soldiers and familiarize oneself with their challenges on the ground,” Abrahamian told reporters. “This time I got a better sense that the soldiers are enthusiastic and confident and, most importantly, things are good.”
Abrahamian went on to visit an adjacent Karabakh military base. “Everybody must realize that Armenia’s security starts from Artsakhs’s (Karabakh’s) security,” the government’s press service quoted him as telling its personnel.
“I want to thank all of you. Rest assured that we highly appreciate your service and will continue to stand by you,” he said.
Abrahamian inspected the frontline troops the day after an Armenian soldier, Armen Avetisian, was shot dead in an Azerbaijani truce violation reported at a nearby section of “the line of contact.” Karabakh’s Defense Army said it is investigating the circumstances of the shooting.
Avetisian’s death highlighted increased instances of deadly fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces facing each other around Karabakh and on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov blamed the Armenian side for the ceasefire violations, in an interview with the official Azertaj news agency published on Wednesday. “With such actions the Armenian side is trying to expand the occupation zone,” he said. “However, international organizations remain silent.”
The authorities in Yerevan and Stepanakert blame Azerbaijan for the deadly skirmishes. They argue that Baku has rejected international mediators’ calls for a mutual withdrawal of snipers from the frontlines and joint investigations of shooting incidents.
“We can act like Armenia and are capable of destroying any military facility or settlement on its territory,” declared Hasanov. “We have everything necessary for doing that. But the principles of humanism and the great humanity of our people restrain us.”
Hasanov pointed to Azerbaijan’s decade-long massive military buildup and, in particular, the acquisition of Russian-made tactical missiles, multiple-launch rocket and artillery systems, tanks and other military hardware. He claimed that these weapons have given the Azerbaijani military a strategic advantage over its Armenian adversary.
Armenian leaders have repeatedly downplayed these acquisitions, saying that they have not undermined the military balance in the Karabakh conflict.