President Serzh Sarkisian on Tuesday awarded medals to seven soldiers who the Armenian military says repelled an Azerbaijani commando raid in Nagorno-Karabakh, which heightened tensions on “the line of contact” last week.
Sarkisian paid tribute to them at an awards ceremony timed to coincide with the 22nd anniversary of the establishment of Armenia’s Armed Forces, a public holiday in the country.
He handed a posthumous Medal for Service to the Homeland to the parents of Sergeant Armen Hovannisian, who was shot dead in northeastern Karabakh on the night from January 19-20. Hovannisian’s commander, Lieutenant Sargis Tananian, and five other servicemen of Karabakh’s Defense Army received other medals.
“Our people are in awe of your mission and feel grateful to our army and every soldier of our fatherland … You are the shield under which our country and people live and work,” Sarkisian said at the ceremony that was also attended by dozens of other military personnel and war veterans awarded on the occasion.
Hovannisian received full military honors on Wednesday in a state funeral that was attended by Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian. Ohanian called the soldier a national hero and said the Armenian military will retaliate for his death.
The Azerbaijani army has denied attacking Karabakh Armenian positions or suffering any casualties in the area on that night. Still, it reported on Wednesday that one of its officers has been shot dead at the same section of the frontline. Baku announced the combat death of another Azerbaijani officer near Karabakh on Monday.
Both conflicting parties say that skirmishes on “the line of contact” around Karabakh and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border have intensified dramatically since January 20. Each side has blamed the other for the truce violations, saying that they are aimed at sabotaging peace talks mediated by the United States, Russia and France.