Armenia reports 4 soldiers killed, 1 injured near Sotk

By Mark Dovich

Armenia’s Defense Ministry said four Armenian soldiers were killed and one injured Friday in clashes with Azerbaijani troops in the eastern Gegharkunik region. The ministry did not immediately report the severity of the wounded soldier’s injuries.

Azerbaijani units attacked Armenian positions in the border village of Sotk twice, once at around 7:50 a.m., and again around 12:50 p.m., the ministry said, adding that Azerbaijani units also opened fire at Armenian positions in the nearby village of Norabak around 12:25 p.m.

As of 3:15 p.m., fighting continued, but at a substantially “decreased intensity,” according to the ministry.

The reported use of mortars and drones in the attacks would, if confirmed, mark a significant escalation beyond the exchanges of gunfire that regularly break out along the two countries’ undelimited border.

Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry said three Azerbaijani soldiers were injured in the clashes.

What’s the context?

The latest bloodshed comes amid a major political and military shake-up in Nagorno-Karabakh, the region at the heart of the decades-long conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

On Friday, President Arayik Harutyunyan resigned, one day after dismissing Gurgen Nersisyan as state minister, a post akin to prime minister, and replacing him with Samvel Shahramanyan, formerly the head of the region’s Security Council.

David Ishkhanyan, Nagorno-Karabakh’s parliament speaker, will serve as interim president until the legislature convenes to select a new president, who will be expected to serve out the rest of Harutyunyan’s term, until 2025.

Under Nagorno-Karabakh law, the National Assembly must meet within seven to ten days. There will be no general election.

Meanwhile, Armenia’s state-run Armenpress news agency reported Thursday Russia had replaced the head of its peacekeeping forces in the region, swapping out Colonel General Alexander Lentsov with Major General Kirill Kulakov.

Russia’s Defense Ministry has not commented on the matter, and CivilNet has not been able to independently verify the information.

If confirmed, Kulakov would be the peacekeepers’ fifth commander in just three years.

Why Sotk?

Sotk, home to Armenia’s largest gold mine, suffered heavy damage in Azerbaijan’s unprecedented attack on Armenia last September and has been repeatedly targeted by Azerbaijani forces this year.

In May, the Russian company that owns the mine indefinitely suspended some operations at the site, citing regular cross-border shelling from Azerbaijan.

“Further work at the Sotk open pit has become impossible due to circumstances beyond the company’s control,” GPM Gold was quoted as saying by Russia’s state-run Sputnik news agency.

Read more: Armenia’s largest gold mine partially closed over shelling from Azerbaijan


Hours following the publication of this piece, Armenia’s Ministry of Defense reported that as a result of the intensive resuscitation measures, the heartbeat of one of the soldiers previously announced dead was restored.

The serviceman has a gunshot wound and remains in an extremely serious condition.

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