2016’s First Blood: Armenian soldier killed by Azeri forces in Karabakh

In what marked the first casualty of the year after a period of relative New Year calm in the Karabakh conflict zone, an Armenian soldier was reportedly killed by Azeri troops at the frontlines over the weekend.

The Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Ministry said 19-year-old Aramais Voskanyan was fatally wounded on Saturday while on duty in the eastern direction of the line of contact with Azerbaijan.

According to the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army, in the period of January 3-9, the Azerbaijani side fired more than 4,000 shots from guns of different calibers.

“The advanced units of the Defense Army mostly refrained from retaliatory actions and continued to confidently carry out their combat duty,” the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Ministry said.

More than four dozen Armenian servicemen were killed in 2015 around Nagorno-Karabakh and at the restive Armenian-Azerbaijani border as Azeri forces began using larger-caliber and heavier weapons, including mortars and battle tanks.

At one point in December, Armenia’s Defense Ministry said the 1994 ceasefire agreement was effectively in tatters, while Nagorno-Karabakh’s Defense Minister Levon Mnatsakanyan accused Azerbaijan of “bringing the situation closer to war”.

The December 19 meeting between the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents did not bring immediate calm to the conflict zone, but tensions eventually subsided towards the New Year as Azerbaijan was also hit by a severe currency market crisis amid falling international oil prices.

International mediators from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe hope Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev can hold another meeting in 2016 to discuss ways to settle the protracted dispute.

(Armenianow.com)

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