Karen Donfried of the US State Department

Soldiers Killed in Fresh Fighting On Armenian-Azeri Border

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YEREVAN (RFE/RL/Panorama.am) — One Azerbaijani and two Armenian soldiers were killed in heavy fighting that broke out on Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan on Tuesday, January 11.

The Armenian Defense Ministry said Azerbaijani forces opened fire late in the afternoon at its positions in Armenia’s Gegharkunik province bordering the Kelbajar district west of Nagorno-Karabakh. The positions were shelled and attacked with combat drones later in the day, the ministry said in a statement.

“The Armenian side took proportionate actions,” it said. ”The exchange of gunfire was continuing as of 6 pm [local time.]”

Two Armenian soldiers, Artur Mkhitaryan and Rudik Gharibyan, were killed and two others wounded in the fighting, the ministry said in another statement released later in the evening. It said the situation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border is now “relatively stable.”

Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry reported, meanwhile, that Armenian troops shot and killed an Azerbaijani soldier at a Kelbajar section of the border.

A local official in Gegharkunik reported an exchange of gunfire in the same border area on Saturday. The Armenian military did not officially confirm that information.

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Tensions in the area have run high since Azerbaijani forces reportedly advanced a few kilometers into Armenian territory last May. Yerevan has repeatedly demanded their withdrawal. Baku maintains that its troops took up positions on the Azerbaijani side of the frontier.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry said the latest ceasefire violations there are “yet another manifestation of Azerbaijan’s continuing infringements of Armenia territorial integrity that began on May 12, 2021.”

The situation on the border was on the agenda of Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan’s phone call on Tuesday with Karen Donfried, the US assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs.

The Foreign Ministry said Mirzoyan briefed Donfried on “recent days’ ceasefire violations by the Azerbaijani armed forces” and stressed the need for “steps to de-escalate the situation.”

In addition, Armenia’s Human Rights Defender (Ombudsman) Arman Tatoyan on Tuesday provided details of an incident, in which Azerbaijani forces threatened an Armenian driver and his family with guns and stoned their car on the way back home. The full text of a statement released by the ombudsman is provided below.

“On January 2, 2022, between 2 and 3 p.m., when a resident of Lori Province of Armenia was on his back from Artsakh with his wife and a 3-year-old child with in his Nissan Teana car, several Azerbaijani servicemen with aggressive behavior pointed their guns at his car on the Stepanakert-Shushi road, yelled and threw a big stone at the vehicle.

“As a result, the front bumper, the car amplifier and the radiator were damaged, while the vehicle registration plate was lost.

“The Armenian citizen suffered damages of more than 200,000 drams as a result of the criminal acts of the Azerbaijani troops.

“The resident of Vanadzor city of Lori Province alerted the Human Rights Defender of Armenia about the incident.

“The citizen informed the competent bodies of Armenia and Artsakh about the incident. Artsakh Human Rights Ombudsman Mr. Gegham Stepanyan officially confirmed this incident to Armenia’s Human Rights Defender Mr. Arman Tatoyan. Yesterday, an official release was disseminated about the incident from Artsakh.

“Obviously, it was clear to the Azerbaijani armed forces that they were threatening and throwing the big stone at a civilian’s car, in which a woman and a minor child were travelling; however, they continued their criminal acts. The acts were aimed against the rights to life, health, and property of Armenian peaceful civilians, and disrupted their secure travel through the road.

“The above-mentioned incident proves once again that there should not be Azerbaijani armed servicemen in the vicinity of villages of Armenia and Artsakh, and on the roads connecting Armenian communities. The nature of the Azerbaijani violations in Armenia and Artsakh are similar.

“Their presence itself is infringing the right to life and security of civilians, other vital rights. The mentioned incident proves this, considering also the fact that a child was present in the car. The removal of the Azerbaijani military is imperative to restore the violated rights and the normal life of people. There are regular incidents of similar nature.

“The statement of the Human Rights Defender of Armenia is also substantiated by other incidents that took place yesterday in Artsakh: Azerbaijani servicemen opened targeted shootings at Karmir Shuka and Tagahvard communities of Martuni region and Nakhichevanik community of Askeran region; one of the shootings was in the direction of a house located on a distance of around 50 meters from a kindergarten. These facts were confirmed by official statements from Artsakh.

These facts, the Azerbaijani criminal acts and the urgent need of their removal will be presented to international organizations.”

In addition, four farmers were targeted by Azerbaijani forces when doing agricultural work in pomegranate orchard near Nakhichevanik village in Artsakh’s Asekran village, Artsakh Police informs.

 

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