YEREVAN — Two foreign national workers building a new metallurgical plant in Armenian border village Yeraskh were seriously wounded on Wednesday in a cross-border fire from nearby Azerbaijani army positions.

The workers, identified by the Defense Ministry in Yerevan as Indian nationals Muhammad Asif and Mirhasan Sahajan, were hospitalized as a result.

The ministry accused Azerbaijani forces of firing at its border posts as well as the construction site in the village of Yeraskh for the second consecutive day. It released a photograph of a civilian vehicle in the village bordering Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave riddled with bullet holes.

Several Yeraskh residents interviewed by RFE/RL’s Armenian Service confirmed that the under-construction plant repeatedly came under fire. RFE/RL reporters were not allowed to approach the site for security reasons.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry issued a statement following the first truce violation reported from Yeraskh late on Tuesday. It said Baku is demonstrating “overt disregard for Armenia’s internationally recognized borders” and underlining its desire to “impose solutions on Armenia through the illegal use of force.”

“Either we negotiate in good faith to find mutually acceptable solutions, or, if there is a use of force, then such a policy is unacceptable to us and, we hope, the international community as well,” Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan told the Armenian parliament on Wednesday.

For his part, Defense Minister Suren Papikyan said Armenia is not planning any “aggressive actions” against Azerbaijan and will continue to advance its “peace agenda” despite the Azerbaijani attacks. Papikyan also assured lawmakers that the Armenian armed forces will defend “our country’s sovereign territory.”

The truce violations came one week after the Azerbaijani government protested against the construction of the Yeraskh plant located just 800 meters from the Nakhichevan border. It claimed that building the industrial facility without Baku’s permission is a violation of international environmental norms.

Yerevan brushed aside that claim. The Armenian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that Baku’s “false concerns” are a smokescreen for impeding economic growth and foreign investment in Armenia.

Armenia’s largest gold mine also located on the border with Azerbaijan was likewise targeted by systematic Azerbaijani gunfire this spring. The Russian owner of the Sotk gold mine announced last week that it has no choice but to end open-pit mining operations there and put many of its 700 workers on unpaid leave.

 

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