One Azerbaijani and two Armenian soldiers have been killed and several more civilians from both sides wounded in continuing ceasefire violations reported from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.
Karabakh’s Armenian-backed military said on Friday that two of its soldiers, Marat Khachanian and Arman Stepanian, were shot dead early in the evening “as a result of an action taken by the enemy.” It gave no details of the incident, saying only that its precise circumstances are being investigated.
Earlier in the day, Azerbaijani media reported the death of an Azerbaijani soldier who served at a section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” north of Karabakh. The Defense Ministry in Baku claimed that the conscript, Samir Orujev, accidentally shot himself while on combat duty. The pro-government news website Haqqin.az insisted, however, that Orujev was killed by an “Armenian bullet.”
The deadly incidents came amid continuing skirmishes between Armenian and Azerbaijani troops deployed along the western section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. Each side accused the other of deliberately targeting villages located in the area.
According to the Defense Ministry in Yerevan, one Armenian soldier and three civilians were wounded when an Armenian border village, Vazashen, came under Azerbaijani fire on the night from Thursday to Friday. Azerbaijani forces also reportedly fired on Vazashen and several other villages in Armenia’s northern Tavush region from automatic weapons and mortars the previous night.
The Azerbaijani side, meanwhile, accused the Armenians of continuing to shoot at nearby Azerbaijani villages. Reports from Baku said two elderly residents of one of those villages, Alibeyli, were wounded as a result. They said that gunfire from Armenian army positions also damaged many village houses.
The truce violations prompted serious concern from James Warlick, the chief U.S. mediator in Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks. “We condemn the deliberate targeting of innocent civilians in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” he wrote on Twitter. “We stand for a negotiated settlement.”
Warlick, who co-heads the OSCE Minsk Group along with fellow diplomats from Russia and France, avoided blaming any of the conflicting parties for the escalation.
In another tweet, Warlick posted the photograph of a fragment of a mortar shell which Karabakh Defense Army says was fired on its positions by Azerbaijani forces. “Such escalation is unacceptable,” he said.