Armenia said early today that neighbouring Azerbaijan had attacked civilian settlements in the Nagorno-Karabakh region and urged the population in the disputed region to seek refuge in shelters.
Armenia’s Defence Ministry said that its troops had downed two Azerbaijani helicopters and three drones in response to an attack it said began just after four this morning against civilian settlements, including the regional capital of Stepanakert.
Yerevan warned that its response will be proportionate and the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan bears full responsibility for the situation.
Azerbaijan’s Defence Ministry, in turn, said, as reported by Russian news agencies, that it had launched a military operation along the “contact line,” a heavily-mined no-man’s-land that separates the Armenian-backed forces from Azeri troops in the region.
The ministry said that an Azerbaijani helicopter had been downed but that its crew had survived.
The two former Soviet countries have long been in conflict over Azerbaijan’s breakaway, mainly ethnic-Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh, and border clashes have intensified in recent months.
Ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence during a conflict that broke out as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
Though a ceasefire was agreed in 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia frequently accuse each other of attacks around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the separate Azeri-Armenian frontier.