New clashes between Armenian and Azeri forces claim two lives

The situation on the line of contact between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in Nagorno Karabakh remains tense.

On February 28, Armenian media confirmed two casualties among Armenian servicemen killed by Azerbaijani troops. Artak Sedrakovich Agekyan born in 1979 and Hayk Grigorovich Baroyan born in 1995 were shot dead by Azerbaijani troops in what Baku called a diversionary assault. A video of alleged assault was posted online by Azerbaijani media, showing two subjects under night vision camera eliminated in what is claimed to be a frontline.

Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry officials also stated that that Armenian troops violated ceasefire over 50 times within 24 hours escalating the situation on the line of contact, forcing Azerbaijani troops to react.

Armenian Defense Ministry dismissed reports that it initiated an attack. The ministry’s spokesperson Artsrun Hovanissian did confirm the deaths of Armenian troops but stated that it was it was the Azerbaijani side which launched an assault against Armenian forces, and Armenian servicemen responded repelling the attack and causing casualties for the Azerbaijani forces. Armenia also threatened Azerbaijan with “severe consequences” in response to the deaths of Armenian soldiers.

Azerbaijani officials denied any of its servicemen were killed during the Armenian assault. Both sides regularly exchange threats and claim the opposite side is hiding the actual number of deaths. Situation remains tense as Armenia and Azerbaijan are readying for possible war. Azerbaijan has increased its military funding to $5 billion in 2015. Armenia relies heavily on Russia’s help – it is home to Russia’s 102nd military base in Gyumri just outside of Armenia and Russian troops guard international borders of Armenia.

Azerbaijan’s Nagorno Karabakh region has been the subject of conflict which claimed 30,000 lives in 1990’s as independent Armenia and Azerbaijan engaged in a full-fledged war over the territory. Armenians in Nagorno Karabakh invoke the right to self-determination enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act, although the Armenian army, backed by Russian forces, openly fought a war against Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan maintains the self-determination principle does not work in this case, since the principle of territorial integrity also supported by the Helsinki Final Act, prevails over the former principle.

Baku also holds the Nagorno Karabakh never self-determined but was annexed by Armenia as a result of a war in 1988-1994. Armenian troops have been in control of Nagorno Karabakh and 7 adjacent regions of Azerbaijan since the ceasefire agreement signed in May 1994. No country, including Armenia, has recognized independence of Nagorno Karabakh.

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