Armenia has said three of its soldiers were killed and two wounded in border clashes with Azerbaijani forces in some of the heaviest fighting between the two neighbours since last year’s six-week war over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
In separate statements on Wednesday, the defence ministries of both countries blamed the other side for initiating the clashes.
Armenia’s defence ministry said an intense gun battle had taken place near the village of Sotk close to the border with Azerbaijan’s Kelbajar region, one of those Baku reclaimed after the war that claimed some 6,500 lives.
“The Azerbaijani side is deliberately escalating the situation as its forces remain illegally on Armenia’s sovereign territory,” Armenia’s foreign ministry said.
For its part, Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said Armenian forces had opened fire towards Azerbaijani positions in Kelbajar in the early hours of Wednesday and that two of its servicemen had been wounded.
It said Azerbaijan had agreed to a Russian-proposed ceasefire from 10am local time (06:00 GMT) but that Armenian forces had continued shelling its positions with tanks and mortars.
“Armenia bears full responsibility for the escalation of tensions,” it said.
In six weeks of fighting last September to November, Azeri troops drove ethnic Armenian forces out of swaths of territory they had controlled since the 1990s in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, before Russia brokered a ceasefire.
Moscow has since deployed some 2,000 peacekeepers in the area to oversee the ceasefire.