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YEREVAN -- An Armenian soldier was shot dead in continuing truce violations at Armenian-Azerbaijani "line of contact" around the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Nagorno-Karabakh's ethnic Armenian Defense Army in Stepanakert said in a statement today that the soldier, Hovik Sukiasian, was killed by Azerbaijani forces on January 20 in an "intensive shoot-out" southeast of the disputed territory.

It added that "according to preliminary data, Azerbaijani troops suffered much greater casualties as a result of the shoot-out."

Army spokesman Senor Hasratian told RFE/RL he could not provide any further details about the incident.

Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman Davit Karapetian accused the Azerbaijani military of provoking the incident.

"This incident once again shows that Azerbaijan's authorities either do not control the frontline behavior of their armed forces or themselves organize such provocations," he said.

Azerbaijani Defense Ministry spokesman Teymur Abdullayev dismissed the claims. He was quoted by the Trend news agency as insisting that no Azerbaijani troops were hurt in the area adjacent to Iran.

Abdullayev also said a 35-year-old Azerbaijani officer, Shamil Sadygov, suffered leg wounds after being shot by Karabakh Armenian forces on January 20 at another frontline section northeast of Karabakh.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said an Azerbaijani soldier was shot dead in the same area on January 17.

Deadly skirmishes along the "line of contact" have become more frequent over the past year amid a lack of progress in Armenian-Azerbaijani relations and Baku's threats in recent months to resolve the conflict by force.
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