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Karabakh Fighting Spreads To Armenia-Azerbaijan Border


ARMENIA -- Armenian soldiers take their position on the on the border with Azerbaijan in Tavush region, July 14, 2020

Hostilities in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone appeared to have spread to a section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border on Tuesday, with Armenia accusing Azerbaijani forces of carrying out air and artillery strikes on its military facilities there.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry claimed in the morning that Armenian army units shelled Azerbaijan’s Dashkesan district bordering Armenia’s northeastern Gegharkunik province. It said its troops will take “adequate retaliatory measures.”

The Armenian Foreign Ministry swiftly denied the claim, saying that Baku is “preparing the grounds for expanding the geography of hostilities” and launching military aggression against Armenia.

A spokeswoman for the Defense Ministry in Yerevan, Shushan Stepanian, said later in the morning that Azerbaijani forces shelled an Armenian military base and “used air force” against Armenian border posts in the mountainous area just west of Nagorno-Karabakh. “Expect a tough response,” she wrote on Facebook.

Another Armenian military official, Artsrun Hovannisian, told reporters that the Azerbaijani side used warplanes and unmanned aerial aircraft (UAV) in the cross-border attack. Hovannisian said that an Azerbaijani attack drone also hit a civilian bus near the local Armenian town of Vartenis. According to the Armenian Ministry of Emergency Situations, the bus was empty.

Hovannisian said early in the afternoon that Azerbaijani forces are now shelling Armenian villages close to Vartenis. The Foreign Ministry reported, for its part, that one Armenian civilian was killed in the attacks.

The cross-border incidents were reported on the third day of large-hostilities along the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” around Karabakh, which have left scores of soldiers from both sides dead. They may herald a further escalation of the Karabakh conflict.

Official Yerevan did not say whether it will now ask Russia or the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), of which Armenia is a member, to intervene in the conflict.

The secretary of Armenia’s Security Council, Armen Grigorian, telephoned his Russian counterpart, Nikolay Patrushev, to discuss the situation in the conflict zone.

In a statement, Grigorian’s office said he specifically spoke about Azerbaijan’s attempts to “move the conflict into Armenia’s territory” and Turkey’s “destabilizing” role. He also told Patrushev that Armenian and Karabakh forces are “keeping the situation under full control.”

“Nikolay Patrushev expressed deep concern about the existing situation and developments, stressing the need to resolve the conflict only by peaceful means,” added the statement.

Russia has about 5,000 troops stationed in Armenia. Bilateral Russian-Armenian treaties commit it to protecting the South Caucasus country’s internationally recognized borders.

NAGORNO KARABAKH -- A local man carries part of a shell in the city of Martuni, 28 September 2020.
NAGORNO KARABAKH -- A local man carries part of a shell in the city of Martuni, 28 September 2020.

Moscow has so far not openly sided with Yerevan in connection with the flare-up of violence in Karabakh. It has only called for an immediate end to the continuing fighting around the disputed region.

According to both conflicting sides, the deadly hostilities involving tanks and long-range artillery systems continued overnight and later on Tuesday. Hovannisian said that Karabakh’s Armenian-backed army repelled fresh Azerbaijani attacks at two different sections of the Karabakh “line of contact,” killing about 60 enemy soldiers in the process.

For its part, the Azerbaijani military claimed to have thwarted Armenian “counterattacks” launched at those frontlines.

The Karabakh Armenian army said late on Monday that 84 of its soldiers have been killed since the outbreak of the hostilities early on Sunday. The Azerbaijani side has still not released its casualty numbers.

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