At least three ethnic Armenian soldiers have been killed in Nagorno-Karabakh as more fighting was reported in the region on Friday afternoon.
Nagorno-Karabakh’s Defense Army said Azerbaijani army units continued to violate the ceasefire in the east of the region, using firearms and attack drones, including Bayraktar TB-2s.
“Two contract soldiers of the Defense Army were killed because of the actions of the enemy. The number of those wounded is being verified,” it said, initially.
Later on Friday, the death toll rose to 3.
Nagorno-Karabakh’s military said that the situation in the east of the region remained “extremely tense” as of Friday afternoon.
Earlier today the Defense Army said that at least five Armenian soldiers were wounded in overnight skirmishes with Azerbaijani forces that it claimed attempted to advance further into the territory which is now the zone of responsibility of Russian peacekeepers who were deployed in the region after the 2020 war.
Later, the number of wounded soldiers rose to 14.
Authorities in Stepanakert admitted that Azerbaijani forces took control of one Armenian village in the eastern Askeran district. They said that they are in “active dialogue” with commanders of the Russian peacekeeping force over the situation.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry has denied Armenian reports about fighting in the region. According to Azerbaijani media, it said that “specifications of positions and locations are taking place on the ground without any use of force.”
The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, accused Armenia of attempting “to mislead the international community” by what it described as disinformation about the situation on the ground.
In its March 25 statement it said that “at this moment the only way of ensuring peace and stability in the region is a full implementation of the clauses of the signed joint statements, including a full withdrawal from the region of the remaining illegal Armenian armed groups and normalization of relations on the basis of international legal principles.”
Official Yerevan has blamed Azerbaijan for the latest escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh, also accusing Baku of not respecting the terms of the Russia-brokered ceasefire.
It said that Armenian Defense Minister Suren Papikian had a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoigu on March 24 to discuss the escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh.
According to Russia’s Tass news agency, Shoigu also discussed tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh with Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov.
Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to exercise restraint against the backdrop of the escalation of tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh.
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 September-November 2020 in which nearly 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 the Moscow-brokered truce.