The number of Armenian soldiers killed in skirmishes with Azerbaijani forces around Nagorno-Karabakh has drastically fallen this year despite increased ceasefire violations along the “line of contact,” a top military official in Stepanakert said on Wednesday.
Lieutenant-General Movses Hakobian, the commander of Karabakh’s Armenia-backed Defense Army, said only two of soldiers were shot dead by Azerbaijani snipers in the course of 2012, compared with 11 such cases reported in 2011.
“The measures which we have taken to ensure that our soldiers perform their service on the frontline safely have borne fruit,” Hakobian told a news conference. “Today soldiers can confidently carry out observations on all Defense Army positions and they face no dangers if they don’t violate safety rules.”
Hakobian added that “large-scale work to reinforce frontline positions” has also helped the Karabakh Armenian military substantially reduce the number of incursions by Azerbaijani commando units. “This year there were seven attempts by enemy sabotage groups to penetrate our positions but only one of them partly succeeded in inflicting damage on Defense Army servicemen,” he said. “In the six other cases, those groups were detected and pushed back to their starting positions after suffering casualties.”
Armenian military fortifications along Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan have also reportedly been beefed up this year. Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian personally inspected in August what his press office described as “exemplary defense structures and posts” constructed at various border sections.
The most volatile, western section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontier saw an upsurge in deadly fighting in June, which left more than a dozen Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers dead. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed serious concern over those incidents when she visited the South Caucasus later in June.
The conflicting sides blame each other for more frequent truce violations reported from the border and “the line of contact” around Karabakh.