A statement released by the Karabakh police said the officers were ambushed by an Azerbaijani “sabotage squad” as they rode in a car outside Stepanakert. It released a purported photograph of the vehicle riddled with bullets.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry claimed, for its part, that the car smuggled weapons from Armenia and that a shootout broke out after Azerbaijani military personnel tried to stop and check it. The Azerbaijani side suffered casualties in the firefight, it said without giving any numbers.
The Karabakh premier, Gurgen Nersisian, flatly denied the claim, accusing Baku of misleading the international community. He said the Karabakh authorities will publicize “irrefutable evidence” of their version of events.
The sole highway connecting Karabakh to Armenia has been blocked by Azerbaijani government-backed protesters since December 12.
Armenia condemned the deadly shootings as an act of “terrorism” which it said was “preplanned and ordered by Azerbaijan’s supreme leadership.”
“These actions by Azerbaijan are a practical refutation of Baku’s sincerity regarding the establishment of peace and stability in the region,” the Armenian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The ministry renewed Yerevan’s calls for the international community to send a fact-finding mission to the Lachin corridor and Karabakh.
Nersisian linked the deadly incident to Azerbaijani ceasefire violations alleged by Stepanakert on Thursday and Friday. Russian peacekeepers likewise reported on Saturday that the ceasefire regime was violated in two Karabakh districts.
The reported fighting followed talks between Azerbaijani and Karabakh officials hosted by the commander of the Russian peacekeeping contingent. The two sides gave differing accounts of the agenda and purpose of Wednesday’s meeting.
Karabakh’s leadership said its participants discussed the restoration of “unimpeded” traffic thorough the Lachin corridor and Armenia’s electricity and natural gas supplies to Karabakh also blocked by Baku.
An official Azerbaijani readout of the talks said, however, that they focused on the Karabakh Armenians’ “integration into Azerbaijan.” Stepanakert strongly denied that.