Nagorno-Karabakh’s Information Headquarters, an agency affiliated with the mostly Armenian-populated region’s de facto authorities, said Azerbaijani forces had advanced in the direction of the village of Parukh in the Askeran region. It said it happened at around 4:00 pm (1 pm CET) on Thursday.
Representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Defense Army and the Russian peacekeeping force have reportedly been trying to hold negotiations with the Azerbaijani side to persuade it stop its further advancement and withdraw.
No information about any fighting or casualties was immediately reported in the context of the incident. But authorities in Stepanakert said that women and children of the nearby village of Khramort had been evacuated for security reasons.
“We urge the population to remain calm. The situation on all other sections of the line of contact is stable at the moment,” Nagorno-Karabakh’s Information Headquarters said.
In a statement released later on Thursday Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry denied any advancement of its troops “in the territory of Azerbaijan where the Russian peacekeeping contingent is temporarily deployed.”
It said that “specifications of positions and locations are taking place at the site” and that “no clashes or incidents have occurred.”
“Armenian media artificially exaggerate the situation. The goal is to create an atmosphere that can cause hysteria and mislead the public. There is no reason to worry,” the ministry said, as quoted by the Azerbaijani news website Haqqin.az.
Meanwhile, the Armenian Foreign Ministry issued a statement, saying that “Azerbaijan’s aggressive actions once again show that official Baku continues to grossly violate the terms of the November 9, 2020 trilateral statement [on ceasefire].”
At least one civilian in the village of Khramort was injured by mortar fire as Nagorno-Karabakh accused Azerbaijan of violating the ceasefire in the direction of this and several other Armenian communities earlier this month.
Local residents were in particular alarmed by Azerbaijan’s deployment of military equipment at their positions situated not far from the village. The Russian peacekeepers set up a permanent post in the village two weeks ago, after which no serious incidents have been reported.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry had denied targeting civilians during those incidents. It had accused Armenian forces of firing at its troops deployed in the adjacent Agdam district.
Khramort mayor Zorik Abrahamian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service in the late afternoon that the situation in the village was “very serious.” He declined to elaborate.
Nagorno-Karabakh, an autonomous region in Soviet Azerbaijan, has been claiming its independence from Baku since the collapse of the Soviet Union and a separatist war waged in the early 1990s that also led to ethnic Armenians’ making territorial gains inside Azerbaijan proper.
The standoff with Baku led to another war in 2020 in which about 7,000 soldiers and more than 200 civilians were killed. As a result of that war Azerbaijani forces gained control of parts of Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as seven adjacent districts that had been under Armenian control since 1994.
Some 2,000 Russian troops were deployed in the region to monitor the ceasefire following a Moscow-brokered truce.