The 55-year-old man, Aram Tepnants, was a resident of Martakert, a small town in northern Karabakh town close to the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” in and around the disputed territory.
“He worked with his own tractor and in his own grove,” a spokesman for the Karabakh police told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Saturday. “An Azerbaijani army sniper noticed him and fired in that direction, fatally wounding him.”
The Martakert mayor, Misha Gyurjian, said that Russian peacekeeping soldiers deployed along the “line of contact” witnessed the incident. “Peacekeepers were sitting with [Tepnants] inside his tractor,” claimed Gyurjian.
The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed on Sunday that the farmer was killed “as a result of gunfire from the Azerbaijani side.”
“The Russian [peacekeeping] contingent command is conducting an investigation into the incident with the participation of representatives of the two sides,” the ministry said in a statement.
Azerbaijan denied that its troops killed the Karabakh Armenian civilian.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry insisted that he was killed by Azerbaijani sniper fire and accused Baku of violating the terms of a Russian-brokered ceasefire that stopped last year’s Armenian-Azerbaijani war. In a short statement, it demanded a “proper investigation” into Tepnants’s death.
Tepnants is the first Karabakh civilian killed since the ceasefire came into force on November 10, 2020.
In the last several months, Karabakh authorities have periodically accused Azerbaijani troops of opening small arms fire at Karabakh villages mostly located close to the town of Shushi (Shusha) occupied by them during the six-week war. They have said that such incidents are aimed at intimidating Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian population and causing them to leave the territory.
The Karabakh foreign ministry charged that the purpose of the deadly shooting outside Martakert was to not only trigger a “mass emigration” of Karabakh Armenians but also undermine the Russian peacekeeping mission. It urged Russia, the United States and France, the three world powers co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group, to “hold the Azerbaijani side accountable and prevent such incidents in the future.”