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Armenia says three troops dead in clashes with Azerbaijan

July 28, 2021

The Armenian Defense Ministry has said three of its soldiers have died in clashes in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Russia has now brokered a ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Armenian soldiers destroy and evacuate their headquarters from the town of Agdam on November 19, 2020
Armenia and Azerbaijan ended a six-week conflict in November after Russia brokered a ceasefireImage: Karen Minasyan/AFP/Getty Images

Armenia's Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that three of its troops had been killed in clashes with Azerbaijan's military in what is one of the deadliest incidents over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh since a six-week conflict ended last November. 

"As a result of armed action launched following an attack by Azerbaijani forces, there are three dead and two wounded from the Armenian side as of 08:30 [0430 GMT]," the ministry said in a statement.

Armenia's Foreign Ministry added, "the Azerbaijani side is deliberately escalating the situation as its forces remain illegally on Armenia's sovereign territory."

Later on Wednesday, both Armenia and Azerbaijan accepted a Russian-brokered ceasefire. 

A drone that Azerbaijan said belongs to the Armenian army
In June, Azerbaijan said it had downed this drone that it said belonged to the Armenian army, a sign of recent clashesImage: The Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan/AA/picture alliance

What has Azerbaijan said?

The Azeri government rejected Armenia's account.

Its defense ministry accused Armenia of military provocation, saying Armenian forces opened fire toward Azerbaijani positions in the district of Kelbajar in the early hours of Wednesday.

"Armenia bears full responsibility for the escalation of tensions along the two countries' shared border," it said, adding that two Azeri soldiers had been wounded.

A map of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region

What happened last year?

A six-week war between between the two nations last autumn left some 6,500 people dead.

The conflict ended in November with a Russian-brokered cease-fire under which Armenia ceded territories it had controlled for decades.

Prisoner swaps also took place as part of the deal.

Armenian army soldiers wave as they leave Agdam in November after a Moscow-brokered peace deal
Armenian army soldiers wave as they leave Agdam in November after a Moscow-brokered peace dealImage: Karen Minasyan/AFP/Getty Images

Tensions between Baku and Yerevan flared up again in May, when Armenia accused Azerbaijan's military of crossing its southern frontier to "lay siege" to a lake shared by the two countries.

There have been further sporadic clashes in recent months, sparking fears of fresh fighting.

Armenia-Azerbaijan tensions remain

What is the background to the conflict?

Nagorno-Karabakh is recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but its population is majority Armenian.  

It has mostly been governed by a separatist, self-declared republic, run by ethnic Armenians and backed by the Armenian government.

Separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh voted to break away from Azerbaijan in the late 1980s as the Soviet Union collapsed; the ensuing conflict has claimed around 30,000 lives.

jf/nm (Reuters, AFP)

Fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh