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Armenia says six soldiers captured by Azerbaijan at border

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Armenia’s acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan speaks during a parliament session in Yerevan, Armenia May 10, 2021. Tigran Mehrabyan/PAN Photo via REUTERS

Armenia said Thursday that Azerbaijan has captured six of its soldiers, the latest in a series of border incidents after last year’s war over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

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The Armenian defence ministry said in a statement that its forces were carrying out engineering work in a border region when Azerbaijan’s army “surrounded and captured six servicemen”.

Azerbaijan’s military however described the Armenian soldiers as a “reconnaissance and sabotage group” in a statement announcing the detention.

It said the Armenian soldiers had “tried to mine supply routes leading to Azerbaijan army positions” and “were surrounded, neutralised and taken prisoner”.

The incident, which Azerbaijan said took place in the Kelbajar region on the border between the historic rivals, is just the latest in several months and puts additional pressure on a ceasefire brokered by Russia last year.

The two ex-Soviet countries in the Caucasus region fought for six weeks beginning in September last year for control of Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian region in Azerbaijan that had been controlled by separatists for decades.

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Some 6,000 people were killed in the conflict which ended after Moscow brokered an agreement between Yerevan and Baku that saw Armenia hand to Azerbaijan large sections of the territory it had controlled for decades, including Kelbajar.

The ceasefire, monitored by some 2,000 Russian peacekeepers, has largely held but tensions have continued and there have been several border incidents.

Armenia said one of its soldiers was killed earlier this week after a shooting broke out with Azerbaijan’s forces, an incident Baku denied it was responsible for.

Armenia had earlier in the month accused Azerbaijan’s military of infiltrating its southern border to “lay siege” a lake that is shared by the two countries.

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