YEREVAN — Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian has ordered the Armenian military to launch “preventive” offensive operations in response to the latest upsurge in Azerbaijani armed incursions, which has left one Armenian civilian dead on Sunday.
“We must fight against [Azerbaijani] sabotage and reconnaissance actions, carry out training exercises for enhancing the combat readiness of all army detachments, punish the enemy during its sabotage and reconnaissance actions and, in some cases, attack without waiting for the enemy to act first,” he told senior military officials at a meeting in Yerevan on Monday.
Ohanian said that troops deployed along Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan and the more militarized “line of contact” around Nagorno-Karabakh must be constantly prepared for “punitive” or “preventive” measures. To that end, he said, the commanders of army battalions and even companies must now be allowed to take such action on their own.
“I am calling on everyone to give the commanders that freedom,” he added.
The extraordinary order was issued one day after an Azerbaijani commando raid on the northern Tavush province. In a statement, the ministry said that an 80-year-resident of a local Armenian village, Hrant Sargsian, was shot dead as Armenian troops stationed nearby repelled the cross-border attack.
The Baghanis village mayor, Narek Sahakian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) the elderly man accidentally came across the retreating Azerbaijani soldiers as he grazed sheep in the border area. “They killed him,” said Sahakian.
The ministry said that one Azerbaijani soldier was also killed in the incident. Its spokesman, Artsrun Hovannisian, said on Monday that the Armenian military promptly allowed Azerbaijani troops to recover the soldier’s body from no-man’s land separating the two warring sides.
Nagorno-Karabakh’s army, meanwhile, claimed that its forces took “preventive measures” later on Sunday to thwart similar raids which it were attempted by the Azerbaijani army at two sections of “the line of contact.” No Karabakh Armenian soldiers were killed or wounded in the firefights, it said.