The tension in the Nagoro-Karabakh region and on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan continues as both of the sides accuse each other of provoking the escalation.
12 service personnel of the Azerbaijan’s armed forces have been killed in the clashes, Azerbaijan Defense Ministry spokesman Vagif Dargakhly told RIA Novosti on Saturday
The Armenian forces fire has downed an Azeri MI-24 helicopter and has destroyed a tank. Information about the casualties was not released at first from the Armenian officials.
Later, the militias from the Karabakh republic claimed that they shot down two Azeri helicopter gunboats and a drone and destroyed two tanks. Azerbaijan confirmed losing one helicopter, one tank, and 12 soldiers. Consequently Armenia confirmed of losing 18 soldiers and having 35 more wounded.
— Gevorg Ghazaryan (@initiaty) April 2, 2016
Karabakh authorities informed about two teenage students being seriously injured near their school by rocket fire from Azerbaijan. Separate reports in the local media reported for six civilians and three soldiers been taken off to hospitals with injuries received during clashes.
The Armenian Defense Ministry published the photos of a downed Azerbaijani drone.
— Serge (@Zinvor) April 2, 2016
At Saturday evening NKR defense army announced that overall 200 soldiers from the Azerbaijani soldiers have been elliminated during the military actions of April 1, the night of April 2 and today.
— ArtsakhPress Agency (@ArtsakhPress) April 2, 2016
Azerbaijan accuse Armenia of opening fire 127 times over 24 hours along the border. In their statement they said that the Armenian troops were using mortars and heavy machine guns.
The Armenian version of the story states that Azeri troops went on the offensive overnight and were using tanks artillery and military aircraft.
“The responsibility for the situation is fully on Armenia, the aggressor and occupier nation,” the Azeri Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Armenia said it condemned the actions of the “Azerbaijan military along the engagement line with Nagorno Karabakh and the border with Armenia.” Both accused their rival of targeting civilians in Azerbaijan and Karabakh respectively
Azerbaijan says that the military took control over the strategic points on the border in order to protect the threatened villages by the Armenian forces. According to Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry the sites are currently being fortified by the military.
The military claims that it has destroyed ‘’six Armenian tanks, 15 artillery pieces, several bunkers and over 100 enemy soldiers.’’ The Armenian side stated that these allegations were not true.
Yerevan distinguishes its own armed forces from those of the breakaway republic, while Baku considers them all Armenian.
Karabakh’s reports state that Azerbaijan sent a recon unit across the border overnight. Dmitry Pisarenko, the head of the Armenian branch of the Russian news agency Sputnik, says that it was intercepted by local forces. He added that the firefight quickly escalated into a battle with tanks, helicopters and artillery.
Situation in the city of Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh:
Following the clashes, President Vladimir Putin urged the warring sides to immediately observe the 1994 ceasefire and “to exercise restraint so as to avert new human casualties,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
Sergey Shoigu, Russian Defense Minister, held an emergency phone talks with his Armenian and Azeri counterparts to discuss the possible solutions to this conflict.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow was keeping in touch with members of the OSCE Minsk group, which is responsible for monitoring the Karabakh truce. The group is currently co-chaired by Russia, the US, and France and also includes Belarus, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Turkey, and the two conflicting sides.
The group released a statement in which expresses their concerns about the on-going conflict and call for immediate ceasefire. It also added that it regrets the loss of lives, including civilians, caused by the clashes.
EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini also expressed concerns over the conflict and called on all sides to show restraint and observe the truce. She added that EU supported the mediation effort by the OSCE Minsk group.
Nagorno-Kabakh is an area in Azerbaijan that is populated by Armenians and currently controlled by the Armenian government. The two former soviet republics are locked in a decades- long conflict over it. The conflict broke away in 1988 when the region sough to secede from the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, before proclaiming independence after the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991 with a bloody three-year war. Russia brokered a ceasefire between the two countries in 1994, but the tensions have never actually stopped and occasionally the tension grows into violence.
The current escalation comes amid the standoff between Russia and Turkey over the Syrian conflict. Azerbaijan is moving closer to Turkey and the US, while Armenia has modern history alliance with Russia.
Written by Yoana for South Front