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Armenian Soldier Killed In Border Skirmish


Armenia - An Armenian military commander inspects troops deployed in Gegharkunik province bordering Azerbaijan, May 20, 2021.

An Armenian soldier was shot dead on Tuesday in what authorities in Yerevan described as a skirmish with Azerbaijani forces that crossed into Armenia.

The Armenian Defense Ministry said the incident occurred at one of the contested portions of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border where troops from the two countries have been locked in a tense standoff for the last two weeks.

A ministry statement said Azerbaijani troops opened fire on an Armenian army unit deployed in Gegharkunik province, causing the latter to retaliate. It said Armenian Sergeant G. Khurshudian died in the exchange of gunfire.

“The situation is under control right now. There are no gunshots,” read the statement released late in the afternoon.

A spokesman for Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General, Gor Abrahamian, said that a group of Azerbaijani soldiers approached Armenian servicemen manning a border post and demanded that they leave it before firing the gunshots that killed Khurshudian.

Azerbaijani authorities denied the shooting, saying that the Armenian soldier died in an accident. The Defense Ministry in Baku claimed that Armenian forces themselves tried to cross the border and were stopped by the Azerbaijani side.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry dismissed the Azerbaijani claims as “disinformation” and proposed an international investigation into the incident.

“The hostilities carried out by Azerbaijan inside Armenian territory give the Republic of Armenia the right to take necessary and adequate steps to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity and to ensure the security of its population,” it said in a statement.

Tensions at several border sections in Gegharkunik and another Armenian province, Syunik, have run high since Azerbaijani troops advanced several kilometers on May 12-14.

Yerevan maintains that they are stationed within Armenia’s internationally recognized borders and must be withdrawn unconditionally. It has warned of “unpredictable consequences” of the military standoff.

Baku denies sending troops across the border and says that its forces only took up new positions on the Azerbaijani side of the frontier.

Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers deployed in those border areas last week reportedly argued and came to blows but did not shoot at each other. The Armenian Defense Ministry did not report any skirmishes there until Tuesday.

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