On April 30 an Armenian contract serviceman Argishti Sepkhanyan received a head wound from apparent sniper fire in northeastern Armenia’s Tavush province, Defense Ministry spokesman Artsrun Hovannisyan reported. The day before, on April 29, a stretch of the Yerevan-Tbilisi highway between the villages of Baganis and Voskepar also came under lights arms fire for about 40 minutes.
These are the most serious frontline incidents reported since last year, when Armenian servicemen were killed by hostile fire on September 19 and 22. The frontline has remained calm since Nikol Pashinyan and Ilham Aliyev had their first meeting later in September and agreed to stay in touch to prevent frontline shooting incidents. They had more meetings since then.
This week’s shooting coincided with the prime ministerial summit of the Russia-led Eurasian Union being held in Yerevan on April 29-30. Previously, Azerbaijani forces would periodically escalate tensions in Armenia’s northeast where more than twenty villages, as well as the country’s main highway to Georgia, are located close to the border and are vulnerable to light arms shooting. The incidents would also test the reaction of Russia, which is treaty-bound to defend to the Republic of Armenia proper, and whose officials would in the past occasionally react to the incidents.
Last year, during political transition in Armenia, Azerbaijani forces also moved into the previous no-man’s land close to Yerevan-Meghri highway close to the village of Areni in Vayots Dzor province, where there was some shooting reported last September as well.
In early March, two Azerbaijani special services personnel died in a snow avalanche in Dashkesan district on the mountainous border with Armenia’s Gegharkunik province not far from the recently completed Vardenis-Mardakert highway. Although circumstances of their movements remained unknown, as snow melts each spring Armenian and Azerbaijani forces are known to seek more advantageous positions in mountainous areas.
Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign minister were expected to meet in the coming weeks to discuss implementation of previously agreed humanitarian projects intended to move the peace process forward. Though no date or venue have been announced so far.
UPDATE: On May 3, the Armenian military reported another serviceman seriously wounded, this time in Artsakh, and overall increase in the tempo of sniper fire throughout the week.