Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian Defense Army said the soldier, Hovik Sukiasian, was killed on Thursday morning in an “intensive shootout” provoked by Azerbaijani forces deployed southeast of the disputed territory.
“According to preliminary data, Azerbaijani troops suffered much bigger casualties as a result of the shootout,” the Karabakh army said in a statement. Its spokesman, Senor Hasratian, could not give further details when contacted by RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry also accused the Azerbaijani military of provoking the incident. “This incident once again shows that Azerbaijan’s authorities either do not control the frontline behavior of their armed forces or themselves organize such provocations,” ministry spokesman Davit Karapetian charged.
But a spokesman for Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry, Teymur Abdullayev, dismissed these claims. He was quoted by the Trend news agency as insisting that no Azerbaijani servicemen were hurt in the area adjacent to Iran.
Abdullayev also said a 35-year-old Azerbaijani officer, Shamil Sadygov, was wounded in the legs by Karabakh Armenian forces on Thursday at another frontline section located northeast of Karabakh. An Azerbaijani soldier was reportedly shot dead in the same area on Monday.
Deadly skirmishes along the line of contact appear to have become more frequent over the past year amid a lack of decisive progress in Armenian-Azerbaijani progress and Baku’s regular threats to solve the conflict by force. Some analysts regard this as an indication of a growing likelihood of another Armenian-Azerbaijani war.