Azerbaijan has captured six Armenian soldiers. This is one of the incidents in the wake of growing tensions in the border region between the two sides in the aftermath of the end of fierce clashes over the territory of the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh last autumn.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said that Armenian soldiers were detained in the morning of May 27 in the Kelbajar district when they crossed the border and planted mines on a road connecting the district with Azerbaijani army positions.
The Armenian Defense Ministry said in a statement that six of its soldiers had been captured while carrying out engineering work in the Gegharkunik province of Armenia.
According to the ministry, “the necessary steps are being taken to release the captured soldiers.”
The mining version did not rule out Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Fashinyan, but at a cabinet meeting he clarified that soldiers were setting up mines on Armenian territory to fortify the border and put up warning signs.
The incident took place at the Verin Shorzh border checkpoint in the Armenian province of Gegharkunik. Gegharkunik borders the territory that was recaptured by Azerbaijan in 2020.
This is not the first border incident between Armenia and Azerbaijan this week. On May 26, the sides blamed each other for a shooting at the border, which Yerevan said claimed the life of an Armenian soldier. Baku called the incident an “accident.”
Earlier, Armenia accused Azerbaijani troops of illegally crossing the border and penetrating several kilometers deep into Armenian territory in the provinces of Sunik and Gegharkunik. According to the Armenian side, this is an attempt by Azerbaijan to appropriate these territories. Azerbaijan denies the allegations, saying its troops simply took up positions on the Azerbaijani side of the border, in areas that were inaccessible during the winter.
In a statement issued on May 27, the Armenian Foreign Ministry accused the Azerbaijani Armed Forces and political leadership of provocative actions aimed at “further escalating tensions that could seriously undermine peace and stability in the region.”
Two days earlier, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry had accused Armenia of “deliberately stirring up tensions” by spreading “lies” in the border area.
A few months before the escalation of the situation on the border, Yerevan and Baku reached an end to the armed conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, which erupted in late September last year, as a result of a peace agreement. The military confrontation, which lasted several weeks, claimed the lives of at least 6,900 people. The fighting ceased after the parties signed a peace document on the peace and redistribution of territories on November 9, mediated by Moscow. Under the peace treaty, the Armenians lost a large number of territories they had controlled since the 1990s. Under the agreement, up to 2,000 Russian peacekeepers were sent to ensure peace in the region.
Nagorno-Karabakh is a territory belonging to Azerbaijan, which is historically inhabited by ethnic Armenians. In the early 1990s, as a result of fierce fighting, the Armenians gained control of this autonomous region of Azerbaijan and the seven districts bordering it.
Currently, the aggravated situation in the border zone is putting additional pressure on Nicole Fashinyan, who has just resigned in order to pave the way for early parliamentary elections. He agreed to hold snap elections as a result of pressure from the opposition and the people dissatisfied with the terms of the deal.
A political crisis has erupted in Armenia since Fashinyan, who is currently acting prime minister, signed a peace deal with Azerbaijan and Russia in November. The opposition demanded the resignation of Fashinyan and his government and staged thousands of rallies in central Yerevan.
Extraordinary parliamentary elections are scheduled for June 20.