Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for an immediate end to recent clashes between Armenian-backed and Azerbaijani forces in the disputed Caucasus region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
On Saturday, the Russian president called for a ceasefire between the two sides after officials from Armenia and the Azerbaijan Republic announced the clashes and reported an unknown number of casualties.
"President Putin calls on the parties in the conflict to observe an immediate ceasefire and exercise restraint in order to prevent further casualties," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu have also reportedly held talks with their counterparts from Yerevan and Baku.
'12 Azeri, 18 Armenian troops killed'
Azerbaijan said Saturday that Armenian forces had killed 12 of its soldiers and shot down a helicopter in fierce fighting between the arch-foes.
"Twelve Azeri servicemen were killed in action and a helicopter was shot down by Armenian forces," Azerbaijan's defense ministry said in a statement, also claiming that Azeri forces took control of "two strategic heights and a village" in Karabakh.
The statement also claimed that more than 100 Armenian forces had been killed or wounded. The ministry also claimed to have destroyed six Armenian tanks and 15 artillery positions.
Meanwhile, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian claimed that Azeri troops had killed 18 Armenian soldiers.
"From our side 18 soldiers were killed and some 35 others wounded," Sarkisian said in a televised statement, not specifying if the soldiers belonged to Yerevan-backed forces in Karabakh or Armenia's armed forces.
This as earlier in the day, authorities from both countries accused the other side of provoking the violence which started overnight Friday.
The Azeri Defense Ministry also accused Armenian soldiers of opening fire 127 times along the border, including civilian residential areas, over a 24-hour time period.
Karabakh region, which is located in the Azerbaijan Republic but populated by Armenians, has been under the control of local ethnic Armenian militia and the Armenian troops since a three-year war, claiming over 30,000 lives, over the region ended between the two republics in 1994 through Russian mediation.
Last December, the Armenian Defense Ministry said the ceasefire deal reached in 1994 was no longer in place, saying the current situation amounted to “war.”
Although the two countries are divided by a buffer zone, both sides frequently accuse one another of violating the ceasefire.