Three Armenian soldiers have been killed in continuing skirmishes along the main Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” around Nagorno-Karabakh, military authorities in Stepanakert said over the weekend.
Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian Defense Army said one of the soldiers, Vazgen Bakhshian, was shot dead on Friday, while the two others died on Saturday at unspecified sections of the frontline. In a short statement, it did not identify the latter victims or give other details.
The statement said the deadly shootings were the result of fresh ceasefire violations by Azerbaijani forces.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry was quick to condemn the deaths and accuse Baku of torpedoing international efforts to bolster the shaky ceasefire regime in the conflict zone. “This behavior deserves the most severe condemnation by the international community,” read a ministry statement issued on Saturday.
Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry rejected these accusations on Monday. “Twenty percent of Azerbaijan’s territory is occupied by the armed forces of Armenia, and the Armenian side’s accusations are therefore inappropriate,” Elman Abdullayev, a ministry spokesman, was reported to say.
Citing unnamed military sources in Yerevan, the Tert.am news service said later on Saturday that the Armenian and Karabakh Armenian militaries have been ordered to launch retaliatory “punitive actions” against Azerbaijani troops.
Davit Jamalian, a military expert close to the Armenian Defense Ministry, claimed on Monday that three Azerbaijani soldiers have been shot and killed in recent days. The Azerbaijani military has reported no casualties from the Karabakh frontline since Friday.
Deadly exchanges of fire at various frontline section appear to have become more frequent over the past years, prompting growing concern from the international community.
During their most recent visit to the region, the U.S., Russian and French mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group presented the conflicting parties with what they called a “draft mechanism for investigation of incidents along the front lines with the participation of all sides.” No details of that mechanism have been made public yet.