Azerbaijan, Armenia border clashes kill 99

At least 49 Armenian soldiers and 50 Azerbaijani troops have been killed in the deadliest fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia since a 2020 war, according to each side, prompting Russian President Vladimir Putin to appeal for calm.

Armenia and Azerbaijan, neighboring former Soviet republics, blamed each other for renewed fighting that began overnight at several points along their border, raising fears of another major armed conflict in the former Union region. Soviet while the Russian army is blocked in Ukraine.

Russia has peacekeeping troops in the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict zone as guarantor of an agreement that ended a six-week war two years ago over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.

Armenia said Azerbaijan bombed cities near the border, including Jermuk, Goris and Kapan, forcing it to respond.

Azerbaijan said Armenian sabotage units tried to undermine Azerbaijani positions and started shooting.

He also accused Armenian troops of firing heavy weapons in violation of the ceasefire reached on Tuesday.

Reuters was unable to immediately verify either side’s battlefield accounts.

“It is difficult to overestimate the role of the Russian Federation, Putin’s role personally,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“The president is understandably doing all he can to help defuse tensions at the border.”

Russia’s war in Ukraine undermined its status as a guarantor of regional security, leaving room for Azerbaijan to make more claims, said Laurence Broers, associate member of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Chatham House think tank.

Azerbaijan, which is politically and culturally linked to Turkey, made significant territorial gains in 2020, reclaiming the land lost from ethnic Armenians in a previous Nagorno-Karabakh war 30 years earlier.

“Since February, we have also seen the collapse of Russia’s reputation as the chief of security and security provider in the region,” said Broers.

“It created a window of opportunity for Azerbaijan to remember that the outcome of the second war in 2020 left the job unfinished.”

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russian-led military alliance of former Soviet states that includes Armenia but not Azerbaijan, met on Tuesday to discuss the situation.

Turkey reiterated its support for its ally Azerbaijan, with Defense Minister Hulusi Akar quoted by his ministry as saying Turkey “will continue to support him in his just causes”.

“The responsibility for the provocation, the clashes and the victims rests with the political-military leadership of Armenia,” said the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry.

“Any action against the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Azerbaijan will be definitely prevented”.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan accused Azerbaijan of attacking Armenian cities because he did not want to negotiate the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave within Azerbaijan but populated mainly by Armenians from stock.

He said the intensity of hostilities decreased although attacks from Azerbaijan continued.

Azerbaijan, which accused Armenian troops of carrying out intelligence activities and moving weapons along the border, said its military positions were attacked by Armenia.

Russia and the United States have called on both countries to exercise restraint.

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, also urged the parties to defuse.

Michel met Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Brussels last month for talks on normalization of relations, humanitarian issues and the prospect of a peace treaty in Nagorno-Karabakh.

European Union Special Representative Toivo Klaar was supposed to visit both countries to support efforts to curb the violence.

France will raise clashes at the UN Security Council, President Emmanuel Macron’s office said.

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