An Armenian soldier has died in a shootout along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border.
According to the Armenian Ministry of Defense, the shootout took place at the Yeraskh section of the Armenian border with the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic. The Azerbaijani Armed Forces opened fire after the Armenian side took “counter-actions” to stop them from advancing their positions through “fortification works using engineering equipment,” the MoD reports.
“The Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Armenia strongly condemns the next provocation of the Azerbaijani side and warns that they will be met with a harsh response,” the MoD wrote in a press release. “The entire responsibility for further aggravation of the situation lies with the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan.”
The MoD of Azerbaijan reports that an Azerbaijani soldier was also wounded in the crossfire and has been hospitalized. According to the MoD of Azerbaijan, the violence was instigated when the Armenian Armed Forces fired on Azerbaijani positions in the Sadarak region of the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic. “The enemy was suppressed by retaliation fire,” the MoD wrote in a press release.
The militaries of Azerbaijan and Artsakh also accused each other of firing upon each other’s posts in the occupied city of Shushi. On the evening of July 13, Artsakh Ombudsman Gegham Stepanyan shared that several minutes prior Azerbaijani soldiers stationed near Shushi had fired into the air, ceasing after precautionary measures taken by the Artsakh Defense Army. The next morning, the MoD of Azerbaijan claimed that Armenian armed detachments had attacked Azerbaijani positions. No casualties have been reported.
The Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its condolences to the family of Samvel Gagik Alaverdyan. “These provocative actions occurred after the infiltration of the Azerbaijani armed forces into the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia in Syunik and Gegharkunik regions,” the MoFA wrote. “Such steps undertaken by the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan may further escalate the situation, henceforth the Azerbaijani authorities bear full responsibility for the consequences.”
The death of the Armenian soldier is the second fatality recorded along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border since the Azerbaijani Armed Forces invaded the Armenian border provinces of Syunik and Gegharkunik on May 12. On May 25, Junior Sergeant Gevorg Khurshudyan died of a gunshot wound during a shootout in the Verin Shorzha village of Gegharkunik.
The President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has repeatedly called for the creation of a corridor through the Syunik province connecting Nakhichevan and Azerbaijan as part of the unblocking of regional economic and transport links envisaged by the November 9 ceasefire agreement ending the 2020 Artsakh War. In response Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan has categorically rejected the proposal of an Azerbaijani corridor in Armenia. On the afternoon of July 14 following the shootout, Aliyev reiterated his claims that the sovereign territory of Armenia is ancestral Azerbaijani land.
“The November 10 Trilateral Declaration states: all refugees must return to their homeland,” he told reporters. “Our native land is Zangezur, our native land is Goycha (Sevan) district, Iravan (Yerevan). We will definitely return there.”
The working group established to implement the revival of Soviet-era transport routes connecting Azerbaijan with Nakhichevan and Armenia with Iran and Russia suspended its activities in response to the Azerbaijani invasion in May. In his comments this afternoon, Aliyev criticized the Armenian side for refusing to sign a comprehensive peace agreement, asserting that the Artsakh conflict has been resolved.
“There must be recognition of each other’s territorial integrity, recognition of borders, and delimitation work must begin,” he said. “If Armenia does not want to do that, it is up to it, but let them think carefully before it is too late.”
In response, Deputy Prime Minister of Armenia Tigran Avinyan insisted that negotiations on border delimitation and demarcation cannot take place until Azerbaijani soldiers withdraw from sovereign Armenian territory. Likewise he affirmed that any peace agreement must include a resolution on the status of Artsakh.
“Sooner or later, the delimitation and demarcation of our borders with all neighbors must take place,” he told reporters. “But grossly violating our borders and taking up positions inside our borders, even trying to blackmail us into some action is not an efficient way, it cannot give any result. Such an approach and method of blackmail cannot be acceptable to the authorities of the Republic of Armenia and the people of the Republic of Armenia.”
Meanwhile in domestic politics, the Armenia Alliance has accused the ruling party of political repression in response to a series of arrests of its members following the June 20 snap parliamentary elections.
Armen Charchyan, director of the Izmirlian medical center and MP-elect with the Armenia Alliance, was charged with obstruction of the voters’ free will after a recording of his speech demanding that his employees at the hospital vote in the June 20 parliamentary election was leaked online.
In the recording, Charchyan warned that he and the management would adopt a “harsh attitude” toward anyone who does not comply with his request. “Being part of the Armenia Alliance today, I have the opportunity technically to check the lists and check who voted,” he threatened. “I have all of your addresses and names. I will see who went to vote and who did not.”
Charchyan also suggested that a vote against the Civil Contract Party would suit the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, which oversees the medical center. “The unequivocal position of the Mother See…is that the current authorities are incompetent, they have failed everything, they must leave,” he says. “Know that your employer has that stance.”
The arrest has been repeatedly condemned by the Mother See and the Armenia Alliance as politically motivated. “The charges facing the doctor are puzzling, and the decision to detain him is severely disproportionate,” the Mother See announced on June 24. “In the current situation it is extremely difficult to characterize the actions taken against the doctor in any way other than as unfounded persecution.”
Between July 7-8, a series of arrests of politicians from the Syunik province took place. On July 7, Lusine Avetian, a local official from the village of Karahunj in the Goris Municipality, was charged with transferring funds to five residents from the state budget under the guise of government assistance in exchange for votes for the Armenia Alliance. Deputy Mayor of Goris Menua Hovsepyan has denounced the charges, forwarded by the Special Investigative Service (SIS), as “political persecution.”
On July 8 the mayor of Kajaran Manvel Paramazyan was detained by the National Security Service (NSS) in Yerevan. According to his lawyer Lusine Sahakyan, the accusation stems from the sale of a plot of land purchased from Paramazyan at a lower price. Paramazyan has been charged with bribing voters or obstructing their free will.
Paramazyan was briefly arrested in December on kidnapping and assault charges alongside other Syunik leaders, including Goris Mayor Arush Arushanyan, who called on local residents to protest PM Pashinyan’s visit to the region. The mayors are members of the “Resurgent” Armenia Party, a faction of the Armenia Alliance led by Syunik politicians.
Vahe Hakobyan, the head of “Resurgent” Armenia and the former governor of Syunik, claims that the SIS is attempting to compel Avetian to testify against Arushanyan. Hakobyan, who is also a major shareholder in the Zangezur Copper-Molybdenum Combine (ZCMC), further told reporters that the NSS searched the ZCMC offices in Kajaran and arrested an employee on July 8. “Perhaps the current authorities have not digested that Kajaran is the only city where they lost,” he said.
Pashinyan threatened to confiscate ZCMC shares held by oligarchs and turn them into state assets during a June 15 Civil Contract Party rally in Kapan. In response to reports that ZCMC management had threatened its employees, many of whom come from Kajaran, with dismissal if they attended Pashinyan’s rally, he promised to fire the leaders of ZCMC and “lay [them] flat on the asphalt” after the election.
On June 12, three days after submitting his resignation, former mayor of Agarak and Meghri and MP-elect with the Armenia Alliance Mkhitar Zakarian was arrested. His lawyer Yerem Sargsian reported witnessing masked and armed policemen dragging Zakarian into the police station using disproportionate force. Zakarian is accused of facilitating the illegal construction of a coffee shop on land allocated by the state in 2011 for cultivation.
Suren Ohanjanian, head of the Vorotan village, was also detained on Monday. The Prosecutor’s Office is investigating evidence that he provided 31 residents with social assistance from state funds in exchange for votes for the Armenia Alliance.
The Armenia Alliance has condemned this string of arrests as a repressive crackdown on the newest parliamentary majority. “Today the members of the ‘Resurgent Armenia’ party council, who are also part of the Armenia Alliance and the leaders of Syunik, are being persecuted,” Hakobyan said during an Armenia Alliance press conference on July 13. “This is political repression and political terror.”
“It is not a coincidence that this is taking place in Syunik and Tavush,” said Ishkhan Saghatelyan, chair of the Supreme Council of Armenia of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) and MP-elect. “They are expelling the best soldiers from the army. It is not a coincidence that today a clear policy is being carried out against the community leaders who organized the self-defense of Syunik during the war, who are now being arrested and detained.”
During the campaign period, PM Pashinyan repeatedly vowed to use his “steel mandate” to execute staff purges against opponents of the 2018 Velvet Revolution and wage “political vendettas” against heads of local communities whom he claimed forced their subordinates to support his political adversaries.