Armenia, Azerbaijan say troops killed in border shootout

The countries accuse each other of opening fire around the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region resulting in deaths.

An Armenian soldier next to a Nagorno-Karabakh flag
The two South Caucasus countries - both formerly part of the Soviet Union - have fought multiple wars over the last 35 years for control of Nagorno-Karabakh [File - Sergei Grits/AP]

Armenia and Azerbaijan have each accused the other of beginning an exchange of fire around the contested Nagorno-Karabkah region that resulted in deaths on both sides.

Defence ministries from both countries issued statements on Tuesday afternoon saying an unspecified number of their own troops had been killed in a clash close to the contested Lachin Corridor.

“Armenian army positions deployed near the settlement of Dyg [at the countries’ shared border] opened heavy fire at Azerbaijani army positions,” the defence ministry in Baku said in a statement, adding that Azerbaijani troops “have returned fire”.

“There are dead and wounded among Azerbaijani troops,” the statement said, without specifying the number of casualties.

The Armenian defence ministry also reported an unspecified number of casualties, blaming Baku for initiating the shootout.

“At 16:00 (12:00 GMT) on Tuesday, Azerbaijani armed forces opened fire in the direction of Armenian servicemen who were conducting engineering works” near the border, the ministry said.

“According to preliminary information, there are dead and wounded on the Armenian side.”

The two South Caucasus countries – both formerly part of the Soviet Union – have fought multiple wars over the last 35 years for control of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but home to a mainly ethnic Armenian population.

Russia dispatched a thousands-strong peacekeeping contingent to the region in 2020 as part of a deal to end weeks of fighting that killed thousands and saw Azerbaijan make significant territorial gains.

Moscow is an ally of Armenia through a mutual self-defence pact, but has also attempted to maintain good relations with Baku.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev have held several rounds of peace talks mediated by the European Union and the United States.

Last month, Pashinyan noted some progress in the peace process, but said “fundamental problems” remain because “Azerbaijan is trying to put forward territorial claims, which is a red line to Armenia”.

In February, the EU deployed an expanded monitoring mission to the Armenian side of the border as Western engagement grows in a region that is traditionally the Kremlin’s sphere of influence.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, ethnic Armenian separatists in Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan. The ensuing conflict killed some 30,000 people.

Source: News Agencies