Azerbaijan said it had set up a checkpoint on the only land route into the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, in a move that was followed by allegations of gunfire on the border by Azerbaijani and Armenian forces.
Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but most of its 120,000 residents are Armenians, and the region was separated from Baku in a war in the early 1990s.
On Sunday, Azerbaijan said it had set up a checkpoint on the Karabakh road, saying the move was necessary because of what it described as Armenia’s use of the route to transport weapons.
The foreign ministry said Azerbaijan had “taken appropriate measures to establish control at the starting point of the route”.
“Ensuring border security, as well as ensuring safe passage on the road, is the prerogative of the Azerbaijani government and a prerequisite for national security, state sovereignty and the rule of law.”
Armenia said the Hakkari Bridge checkpoint in the Lachin corridor was a flagrant violation of the 2020 ceasefire agreement that ended the 2020 war.
He called on Russia to implement the agreement, which stipulates that the Lachin corridor, the only road through Azerbaijan linking Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh, should be under the control of Russian peacekeepers.
“We call on the Russian Federation to implement the tripartite declaration once and for all,” the Armenian foreign ministry said of the agreement, which was mediated by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The US government said it was “deeply concerned” by Azerbaijan setting up a checkpoint on the only land route to the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, saying it undermined efforts to achieve peace in the region.
The US State Department also said there should be free and open movement of people and commerce on the Lachin Corridor, and urged the two sides to resume peace talks.
Pictures of the bridge posted by Azerbaijani officials on social media showed that one side of the bridge was blocked off by vehicles and soldiers.
The Armenian Defense Ministry said a soldier named Artyom Pogosyan was killed around 0750 GMT when Azerbaijani forces opened fire on an Armenian position in the Armenian village of Sutak, east of Lake Sevan. Azerbaijan denied killing the soldier.
Azerbaijan then claimed that Armenian soldiers fired at Azerbaijani units around 11:10 GMT in the Lachin district, which Armenia denied.
In 2020, Azerbaijan regained territory in and around the enclave after the second war ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire confirmed by Russian peacekeepers.
Since December 12, Azerbaijani civilians who identify themselves as environmental activists have clashed with Russian peacekeepers in the Lachin corridor.
Armenia claims that the protesters are supported by the government and are effectively blocking Karabakh. Azerbaijan denies blocking the road, saying that some convoys and aid are allowed to pass.
Over the past few months, Armenia has repeatedly called on Moscow to do more to maintain peace and ensure unrestricted access between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh through the Lachin Corridor.