Armenia says three of its soldiers have died in fighting along the border with Azerbaijan, raising fears the Caucasus neighbors may be edging toward another war.
The Armenian Defense Ministry said on January 12 that the body of a third soldier had been found in an area where heavy clashes were reported the day before that Yerevan and Baku blamed on each other amid warnings that tensions along the border are escalating.
Azerbaijani officials have already said that one of their soldiers was killed in the battles. Armenian officials had previously announced the deaths of two soldiers before the third soldier’s corpse was found with fatal gunshot wounds.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry has blamed Azerbaijani forces for sparking the violence by opening fire on January 11 in the border area near Verin Shorzha in the eastern Gegharkunik Province. It also accused Azerbaijani forces of firing artillery across the border and using drone aircraft in the altercation.
In turn, Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry reported that its soldier was killed along the border with Armenia “as a result of an Armenian provocation in the direction of Azerbaijan’s Kalbacar district.”
Azerbaijan denied that its military used artillery or drones, saying its forces were “responding to a provocation by the enemy.”
It also said Armenian fire was “suppressed due to corresponding actions taken by units of the Azerbaijani Army.”
Baku said that “the entire responsibility for the latest tensions lies with the military-political leadership of Armenia.”
Tensions have simmered for years over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian region internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan that broke away from Baku’s control in the early 1990s.
A six-week war erupted in autumn last year, claiming more than 6,500 lives.
The fighting ended with a Russian-brokered cease-fire under which Armenians ceded territories they had controlled for decades to Azerbaijan. The situation at the border has remained tense despite the accord.