Death Toll In Karabakh Fighting Continues To Rise
The death toll in fighting between Armenians and Azerbaijanis continued to rise, reaching at least 18 as the two sides blamed each other for the escalation and Russia began efforts to try to defuse the crisis.
As sporadic fighting continued through the weekend, Azerbaijan's losses grew to 13, by Baku's count, while Armenia's grew to five by their count. Both sides said the others' losses were greater than reported; Armenia said 25 Azerbaijanis had been killed since July 28, when the fighting flared up, while Azerbaijan claims that 70 Armenians died just August 1-2.
In an interview with state television, the defense minister of the de facto Nagorno Karabakh Republic, Movses Hakopyan, blamed the Azerbaijani defense minister, Zakir Hasanov, for provoking the conflict in order to "prove himself" after being recently appointed. And he expressed confidence in his forces: "Ignorant and shortsighted acts by the enemy have shown that he is capable of anything, however if large-scale military activity begins, the armed forces of Karabakh have nothing to worry about," he said. "I think that after the recent events the people of Azerbaijan have to understand toward what its leadership's adventurism is leading. The number of losses will only increase and our borders won't change, and if some change happens it will come at the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan."
In Yerevan, however, officials were sounding a bit more reserved. Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said that "The situation at the front line remains tense ... But analyses of the recent days shows that in a global context there are no grounds today for a large-scale war." And an official statement from the ministry expressed "regret for losses on both sides."
In Baku, presidential adviser Novruz Mammadov said that Armenia had provoked the crisis, the proof of which was that Hasanov and President Ilham Aliyev were out of the country. "No military unit’s commander can take an individual action on their own while the Supreme Commander-in-Chief and the Defense Minister are not in the country," he said, according to APA. This year has already been much deadlier than previous years, according to the newspaper Armenian Reporter, which has a detailed accounting in English of the events known so far.
From the start of the year to August 1, Armenian forces have confirmed 18 fatalities, with Azerbaijan confirming 25, in various combat incidents on the Line of Contact, including sniper shootings, mine explosions and raids.
By comparison, in all of 2013 the Armenian side suffered seven fatalities in combat incidents and Azerbaijan reported twelve. In 2012 these stood at 14 and 19, respectively.
The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan are supposed to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin later this week, as well as each other. During the meeting, said Azerbaijani analyst Tofik Abbasov, "Aliyev will pose the question to Sargsyan point blank: either return occupied Karabakh and the seven adjacent regions, or expect war."