The 22-year-old Martik Yeremian was gunned down and three other utility workers wounded while repairing a water pipe off the road connecting Karabakh to Armenia.
The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed on Tuesday that they were shot “from the Azerbaijani side.” It said Russian peacekeeping forces stationed in Karabakh are investigating the incident together with Karabakh Armenian and Azerbaijani officials.
“We condemn the violence that caused the death of an Armenian civilian,” read a statement posted on the Twitter page of the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.
“We urge Armenia and Azerbaijan to intensify their engagement including through the Minsk Group Co-Chairs to resolve all outstanding issues related to or resulting from the [Nagorno-Karabakh] conflict,” it said.
According to Gagik Poghosian, the chief executive of Karabakh’s water and sewerage network, the four workers repaired a pipeline supplying water to a Russian peacekeeping post near Shushi when they were approached by an armed Azerbaijani man.
“He asked what they are doing,” Poghosian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “Our guys replied that they are eliminating the consequences of an accident, and he immediately started shooting.”
“This is the road through which hundreds of vehicles go to Armenia and come back every day,” he said. “We have worked there for months.”
The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry on Tuesday did not deny that the civilians were shot by an Azerbaijani serviceman. But it blamed the Armenian side for the shooting, saying that the Karabakh Armenian workers were not escorted by Russian soldiers and that the incident took place during Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s visit to Shushi.
“An event attended by Azerbaijan’s president and other high-ranking officials was held in Shusha, and tight security measures are taken in such cases,” a ministry spokeswoman said.
The governments of Armenia and Karabakh have strongly condemned the shootings.
“Azerbaijan is trying to disseminate despair in Artsakh (Karabakh) so that people choose to leave Artsakh while those willing to return don’t come back,” said Davit Babayan, the Karabakh foreign minister.
In recent months, Karabakh authorities have periodically accused Azerbaijani troops of opening small arms fire at Karabakh towns and villages mostly located close to Shushi. A 55-year-old Karabakh Armenian farmer was shot dead outside the northern Karabakh town of Martakert last month.