The de facto authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh say dozens of ethnic Armenian soldiers have been captured in a raid by Azerbaijani forces in the breakaway region following last month’s cease-fire that ended six weeks of fighting.
“Unfortunately, several dozen of our servicemen have been captured near Khtsaberd,” the leader of the separatist mountainous region, Arayik Harutiunian, said on December 16.
The rights ombudsman in Nagorno-Karabakh, Artak Beglarian, put the number of captive soldiers at around 60.
Nagorno-Karabakh’s Defense Ministry earlier said contact had been lost with a number of army positions around the villages of Khtsaberd (Caylaqqala in Azeri) and Hin Tagher (Kohne Taglar).
There has been no comment so far on the soldiers’ reported capture from Azerbaijani authorities.
Armenian and Azerbaijan agreed to a Moscow-brokered accord that took effect on November 10, ending the worst clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh since the early 1990s.
Under the agreement, Azerbaijani retook control of swaths of territory ethnic Armenians had controlled since the 1990s and nearly 2,000 Russian peacekeepers have been deployed between the two sides.
The Russian peacekeeping force reported over the weekend that fighting had broken out between the two sides in violation of the cease-fire.
Armenia accused Azerbaijan of breaking the truce by attacking Khtsaberd and Hin Tagher, which Azerbaijan claims fall under its control under the deal.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said it had launched an offensive against Armenian forces who had refused to leave the area in the Hadrut district.
The ministry also said that four Azerbaijani soldiers had been killed since the truce agreement came into effect.
Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but the ethnic Armenians who make up most of the region’s population reject Azerbaijani rule.
They had been governing their own affairs, with support from Armenia, since Azerbaijan’s troops and Azeri civilians were pushed out of the region and seven adjacent districts in a war that ended in a cease-fire in 1994.