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Armenian soldier killed in ‘clashes along Azerbaijani border’

25 May 2021
The village of Verin Shorzha. Photo: Hayk Sargsyan.

Armenia’s Ministry of Defence has reported that one Armenian servicemember has been killed in a shootout on the Azerbaijani border in Armenia’s Gegharkunik Province. 

According to the ministry, a 32-year-old soldier was killed on Tuesday after Azerbaijani forces opened fire at an Armenian position near the village of Verin Shorzha. No further information was given. 

Azerbaijani authorities responded by accusing Armenia of sharing ‘false information’ and insisting that Azerbaijani forces did not open fire. In a statement, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence said that Armenian forces ‘attempted to approach the marked area of the border’.

‘As a result of the warning measures taken by our departments, the movement of the opposite side was prevented.’

‘According to the information we possess, the incident involving the death of an Armenian serviceman occurred as a result of an accident. This incident has nothing to do with the Azerbaijani side.’

‘The Azerbaijani side is in constant contact with the Russian side regarding the issue’, their statement concluded.

The latest incident comes amid heightened tensions along the border. Armenian authorities have accused Azerbaijan of making several incursions into Armenian territory in areas of the border which Azerbaijan gained control over following the war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

According to Armenian authorities, Azerbaijani forces crossed the Armenia-Azerbaijan border on 12 May,  in the Gegharkunik and Syunik provinces, advancing their positions several kilometres into Armenia’s territory.  

Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on 21 May that there were around 500–600 Azerbaijani soldiers on Armenian territory. 

Last week, a fistfight broke out between Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers near the village of Khoznavar, in Syunik Province. Eleven Armenian servicemen were reportedly injured during the incident. Azerbaijani denied the Armenian account of the incident.

Despite recent confrontations, this is the first fatality since a clash between Armenian and Azerbaijani armed forces over the villages of Khtsaberd and Hin Tagher in Nagorno-Karabakh in late December. Armenian authorities reported that nine servicemembers were killed and around 70 more captured during the incident. 

After a week of negotiations brokered by Russia, on 23 May the Armenian Ministry of Defence reported that some Azerbaijani forces had returned to their initial positions, but that most remained on Armenian soil. 

[Read more: Proposed agreement on Armenia-Azerbaijan borders sparks protest in Armenia]

Armenia has appealed to Russia and the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation for assistance. Russia has offered to mediate the dispute.

Several Western countries including the US, France, Canada, and Greece have expressed concerns over the reported incursions into Armenian territory. On Tuesday, the Dutch parliament passed a resolution calling on the EU to demand the withdrawal of Azerbaijani forces.

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