BAKU / YEREVAN (Reuters) – Armenia and Azerbaijan on Tuesday exchanged accusations of attacks directly targeting each other's territory – outside the conflict zone in Nagorno-Karabakh. The strongest clashes since the 1990s around the breakaway region of Azerbaijan continue for the third day, the number of civilian casualties is growing.
Dozens of people have died and hundreds have been injured since the escalation of the conflict began on Sunday, according to reports from the parties.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday announced the first victim directly on the territory of the country. According to the ministry, a civilian was killed as a result of an attack by Azerbaijani forces on the city of Vardenis, located more than 20 kilometers from Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Ministry of Defense of Armenia reported that a bus with civilians in the city caught fire after an Azerbaijani drone attack. It is unclear whether the death of a civilian is related to this incident.
President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev said on Tuesday that 10 civilians of his country were killed as a result of shelling from the Armenian side in two days since the beginning of the clashes in the Karabakh conflict zone.
Azerbaijan and Armenia blame each other for the beginning of the clashes. In the 1990s, Baku and Yerevan fought over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is populated primarily by Armenians.
A full-scale war could involve major regional powers – Russia and Turkey.
Russian President's press secretary Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that the Kremlin is in constant contact with the parties to the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and calls for an early ceasefire.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel held telephone conversations with the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia and also called for an immediate ceasefire, said German government spokesman Steffen Seibert.
The Armenian Defense Ministry reported that Azerbaijani forces opened fire on a military unit in Vardenis. According to the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry, the Armenian army fired at the Dashkesan region of Azerbaijan from Vardenis. Armenia denied this message.
The clashes have rekindled fears of stability in the region, which is a pipeline corridor that carries oil and gas to world markets.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported that both sides tried to regain control over the lost territories by conducting counterattacks.
Armenia reported that fighting continued on Tuesday night and that the Nagorno-Karabakh army repelled attacks in several directions along the line of contact.
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(Nvard Hovhannisyan in Yerevan and Nailya Bagirova in Baku with the participation of Riham Alkusa in Berlin and Gabriel Tetro-Farber in Moscow. Translated by Olga Beskrovnova and Marina Bobrova. Editor Dmitry Antonov)