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Armenia reports shootout with Azerbaijani troops at volatile border

This picture taken from the Armenian village of Sotk on June 18, 2021, shows Azerbaijan's flag (L) and Armenia's flag flying at a border checkpoint between the two neighbors. (Photo by AFP)

The Armenian military says one of its soldiers has been injured during a shootout with Azerbaijani troops in an eastern border area, the latest incident since a halt in fierce clashes between the two neighbors over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region last year.

Samvel Asatryan, the chief of staff of Armenia’s army, said the injury took place on Tuesday as Azerbaijani forces “opened fire near the village of Verin Zhorzha” in Armenia’s eastern province of Gegarkunik.

The Armenian army official said the soldier suffered a “minor” injury and that two Azerbaijani troops were also wounded in the clash.

Baku dismissed Yerevan’s report of the clash and injuries, and suspected an internal incident between Armenian troops.

“Azerbaijani army units did not open fire. There are no injured among Azerbaijani servicemen. It could have been an incident between Armenian soldiers,” the Defense Ministry in Baku said in a statement.

The incident is the latest in a series of border clashes that occurred since the two countries ended six weeks of war over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region last year.

On September 27, 2019, heavy clashes broke out between the two ex-Soviet republics over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but has been populated by ethnic Armenians since 1992 when they broke from Azerbaijan in a war that killed some 30,000 people.

Six weeks of fighting that claimed more than 6,500 lives on both sides was brought to a close with a Russian-brokered ceasefire in November that secured territorial advances for Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts.

The two sides, however, accuse each other of violating the fragile ceasefire, with tensions still high after last September’s war.

Azerbaijan announced on Saturday that it had handed over 15 Armenian prisoners, detained during last year’s conflict, in exchange for a map detailing the location of 92,000 anti-tank and anti-personnel mines.

Tensions between Baku and Yerevan have been running high since May, when Armenia accused Azerbaijan's military of crossing its southern border to "lay siege" to a lake shared by the two countries.

Upon request from Armenia, Moscow agreed to step forward and help with the delimitation and demarcation of the two neighbors’ borders.

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