STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL) — Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian met with the commanders of Nagorno-Karabakh’s armed force and inspected the scene of their latest deadly firefight with Azerbaijani forces during a weekend trip to the territory.
Ohanian travelled to Karabakh on Saturday two days after three Armenian soldiers were killed and four others wounded while reportedly fighting back an Azerbaijani attack on their positions in the northern Martakert district.
The Karabakh Defense Army claimed to have killed at least 10 Azerbaijani troops in what was the most serious instance of ceasefire violation in the Karabakh conflict zone since August. The Azerbaijani military denied launching commando raids or suffering any casualties in the area on Thursday, however.
A statement by Armenia’s Defense Ministry said Ohanian visited the site of the 2-hour gun battle and was informed about its details by to Karabakh Armenian servicemen involved in the incident. He went on to meet the Defense Army top brass and discuss “issues related to preventing enemy provocations and giving adequate responses,” added the statement. No other details of that meeting were reported.
“The Armenian side is prepared for any development,” Ohanian said on Thursday just hours after the deadly fighting. He insisted at the same time that this and other truce violations are unlikely to degenerate into a full-scale Armenian-Azerbaijani war.
In a separate development, a Karabakh Armenian soldier reportedly deserted his unit and surrendered to Azerbaijani troops at another section of “the line of contact” in mysterious circumstances on Sunday. The military authorities in Stepanakert said that the 24-year-old contract soldier, Andranik Grigorian, crossed the heavily militarized frontline without his weapons and ammunition.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry released on Monday a short video that shows Grigorian saying that he deserted because of being ill-treated by his comrades. “I don’t want to fight,” he said. “I want to live.”
The Karabakh Armenian army was quick to dismiss the videotaped confession as a fraud. It said that Grigorian was forced to make such claims.
In Yerevan, meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (IRRC) told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the ICCR office in Baku has asked the Azerbaijani authorities to give it access to the soldier.