By Mark Dovich
Update: October 15, 2021
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry has said that one Azerbaijani soldier was killed by an Armenian sniper in the clashes Thursday evening. The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s Defense Ministry has denied responsibility for the Azerbaijani soldier’s death and said it “strictly observes the ceasefire regime” in the region.
As of Friday evening local time, neither the Russian government nor its peacekeeping contingent had responded to the incident.
Six Armenian soldiers were shot by Azerbaijani forces in eastern Karabakh (Artsakh) on Thursday evening, according to military sources in Armenia and Karabakh. Two of the soldiers sustained critical but non-life threatening injuries.
“Azerbaijani armed forces opened fire in the direction of the military base of the defense army located in the eastern border of the republic, which resulted in a gunshot wound to six soldiers,” said a statement from the Artsakh Defense Ministry.
“The Russian peacekeeping military command was immediately informed about the incident,” the statement continued. As of early Friday morning local time, neither the Russian government nor its peacekeeping contingent had not commented on the incident.
In the statement, the Artsakh Defense Ministry said it “continues to adhere to the preservation of the ceasefire regime and urges the Azerbaijani side to also stay away from actions that destabilize the situation.”
The situation along the line of contact in and around Karabakh is now calm, sources say.
Thursday’s incident comes less than a week after an Azerbaijani sniper fatally shot an Armenian man driving a tractor in a pomegranate orchard in Martakert, a large town in northern Karabakh, according to the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s police force.
According to Arman Tatoyan, Armenia’s human rights ombudsman, Thursday’s incident took place near the village of Nor Shen in eastern Karabakh, “in the immediate vicinity of which the positions of the Azerbaijani armed forces are located.” He added that “attacks were launched in the direction of Harav and several other civilian communities of Artsakh.”
“The presence of the Azerbaijani armed forces in the vicinity of Armenian civilian communities poses a serious threat to the security and peace of the civilian people, it is a violation of their right to life,” Tatoyan said on Facebook.
Two of the wounded soldiers are receiving treatment for critical but non-life threatening injuries at a hospital in Stepanakert, the region’s largest city, said Artak Beglaryan, who serves as the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s state minister. The position of state minister was created in 2018 to replace the post of prime minister and is one of the highest-ranking positions in the self-proclaimed republic.
Beglaryan added that “the Armenian side has no positional and territorial losses” and noted that the “defense army is conducting coordinated work with the authorities of the Republic of Armenia with the command of the Russian peacekeeping contingent aimed at further defusing the situation.”
He urged “everyone to refrain from spreading misinformation and the temptation to become a source of ‘scandalous’ information.”
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said in a statement that “the Azerbaijani army has nothing to do with the incident” and that “on the territory of Azerbaijan, where Russian peacekeepers are temporarily stationed, an exchange of fire took place between illegal Armenian armed detachments.”
Thursday’s incident is the single largest escalation of violence in and around Karabakh since December 2020, when Azerbaijan captured the villages of Hin Tagher and Khtsaberd, the only two villages in the Hadrut region of southern Karabakh that remained under Armenian control following last year’s war.
The Russian Ministry of Defense called that incident a “violation” of the fragile ceasefire that Russia brokered between Armenia and Azerbaijan a month earlier, but did not assign blame to either side. Dozens of Armenian troops were captured in Hin Tagher and Khtsaberd, some of whom still remain in Azerbaijan as prisoners of war.
A Russia-brokered ceasefire signed last November ended 44 days of fierce fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani armed forces in and around Karabakh. The war left Azerbaijan in control of swaths of territory previously controlled by Armenian forces, with thousands dead or injured on both sides and tens of thousands more displaced.