YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–At least two Armenia’s were shot dead in the latest exchange of fire along the Armenian-Azerbaijani line of contact east of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry reported Tuesday.
According to the Day.az online news agency, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said its forces deployed east of the Armenian-controlled town of Aghdam killed three Armenian soldiers and wounded several others as they repelled an attack on their positions late on Monday. “Azerbaijani troops suffered no casualties,” said a ministry spokesman, Eldar Sabiroghlu.
The Armenian side denied that version of the events. A spokesman for Nagorno-Karabakh’s Defense Army, Senor Hasratian, said the skirmish broke out after a civilian resident of Karabakh “attempted to move towards Azerbaijani positions” and was shot dead momen’s later. In a statement, Hasratian said the 25-year-old was drunk and “suffered from a mental illness.”
The statement said that Karabakh Armenian soldiers failed to hold the man back and that one of them, identified as Arkady Hakobian, was also killed in the ensuing firefight. “According to preliminary information, the enemy also suffered casualties,” it added.
Armenian-Azerbaijani skirmishes have been a regular occurrence ever since a Russian-mediated truce stopped the bloody conflict in Karabakh in 1994. Dozens of soldiers on both sides are reportedly killed in such incidents every year.
Ceasefire violations appear to have become more frequent last year prompting serious concern from foreign powers seeking to broker a peaceful solution to the Karabakh conflict. In a joint statement issued in early December, top diplomats from the United States, Russia and France called on the conflicting parties to bolster the ceasefire regime by pulling back snipers from their frontline positions.