Armenia says neighbouring Azerbaijan has attacked civilian settlements within the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region and its residents to hunt refuge in shelters because the worst clashes since 2016 raise the spectre of another large-scale war.
Arch-foes Azerbaijan and Armenia are locked during a territorial dispute over the mainly ethnic-Armenian region for many years .
Armenia’s defence ministry on Sunday said its troops downed two Azerbaijani helicopters and three drones in response to an attack it said began at 04:10 GMT against civilian settlements, including the regional capital of Stepanakert.
“Our response are going to be proportionate, and therefore the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan bears full responsibility for things ,” the ministry said during a statement.
Azerbaijan’s defence ministry, in turn, said it had launched a operation along the “contact line”, a heavily mined no-man’s-land that separates the Armenian-backed forces from Azerbaijani troops within the region, Russian news agencies reported.
The ministry said an Azerbaijani helicopter had been downed but its crew had survived.
Armenia’s foreign ministry condemned what it called the “aggression of the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan” and said the Armenian side would deliver an appropriate military and political response.
“Let us stand firmly behind our state, our army… and that we will win. Long live the fantastic Armenian army!” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan wrote on Facebook.
Ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence during a conflict that broke out because the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. They seized Karabakh from Baku within the war, which killed 30,000 people.
Though a ceasefire was agreed in 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia frequently accuse one another of attacks around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Azerbaijan-Armenia border.
Talks to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute are largely stalled since the ceasefire agreement.
The Minsk Group, which incorporates France, Russia and therefore the us , has worked to mediate the dispute, but the last big push for a peace deal collapsed in 2010.
Energy-rich Azerbaijan has invested heavily in its military and repeatedly vowed to retake Karabakh by force. Armenia has said it’ll defend the territory, which has declared its independence but relies heavily on Yerevan.