Armenian Soldier Killed on Azerbaijani Border in Yeraskh

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By Susan Badalian

YEREVAN (RE/RL, Public Radio of Armenia) — One Armenian soldier was killed and another wounded on March 7 in a ceasefire violation reported from Armenia border with Azerbaijan.

The Armenian Defense Ministry said Sergeant Hrach Manasaryan died on his way to hospital after his army unit deployed outside the village of Yeraskh bordering Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave came under Azerbaijani fire.

Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry did not immediately report any fighting from the area about 70 kilometers south of Yerevan, which saw deadly fighting last summer.

Earlier in the day, it accused Armenian forces of opening fire over the weekend at its Azerbaijani troops stationed east and west of Nagorno-Karabakh. Defense Zakir Hasanov reportedly ordered the Azerbaijani army to vigorously respond to Armenian “provocations.”

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The Ministry of Defense in Yerevan swiftly dismissed the “disinformation.” In particular, it denied Baku’s claims that Armenian soldiers deployed outside a border village in Gegharkunik province on Sunday targeted nearby Azerbaijani army positions in the Kelbajar district west of Karabakh.

Armenia called on the international community to properly assess the provocative actions and statements of Azerbaijan.

“Although the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan has denied that a serviceman of the RA Armed Forces was killed as a result of the actions of their units, the official statement on the March 7 meeting at the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan goes in line with the logic of increasing aggression of Azerbaijani units,” the MFA said.

“Condemning the murder of a serviceman of the RA Armed Forces, we consider it necessary to emphasize that such incidents and regular violations of the ceasefire further substantiate the need for a mirror withdrawal of troops from the Armenia-Azerbaijan border and the deployment of an observation mission in the border area,” the statement continued.

“We also consider it necessary that the provocative actions and statements of Azerbaijan be properly assessed by the international community,” the Ministry said.

There had been no major shooting incidents on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border for nearly two months. Russia and Western powers pressed Yerevan and Baku to de-escalate tensions along the long frontier.

Ceasefire violations were also reported in recent days from “the line of contact” along Karabakh’s east. Each side accused the other of starting the skirmishes that apparently did not result in any casualties.

Russian peacekeeping forces reportedly intervened at the weekend to stop exchanges of automatic gunfire outside the Karabakh villages of Khramort and Norshen.

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