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Three Armenian Soldiers Killed In Nagorno-Karabakh

YEREVAN -- Three Armenian soldiers were killed in skirmishes along the main Armenian-Azerbaijani "line of contact" around the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh, military authorities in Stepanakert say.

Karabakh's ethnic Armenian Defense Army said on May 1 that one of the soldiers, Vazgen Bakhshian, was shot dead on April 29, while the other two died the next day at unspecified sections of the front line.

The other victims were not identified. A statement from Karabakh military officials said the deadly shootings were the result of cease-fire violations by Azerbaijani forces.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry was quick to condemn the deaths and accuse Baku of torpedoing international efforts to bolster the shaky cease-fire regime in the conflict zone.

"This behavior deserves the most severe condemnation by the international community," a ministry statement issued on April 30 said.

Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry rejected the accusations on May 2.

"Twenty percent of Azerbaijan's territory is occupied by the armed forces of Armenia, and the Armenian side's accusations are therefore inappropriate," ministry spokesman Elman Abdullayev said.

Citing unnamed military sources in Yerevan, the news service reported on April 30 that the Armenian and Karabakh-Armenian militaries had been ordered to launch retaliatory "punitive actions" against Azerbaijani troops.

Davit Jamalian, a military expert close to the Armenian Defense Ministry, said on May 2 that three Azerbaijani soldiers had been shot and killed in recent days.

But the Azerbaijani military has reported no casualties from the Karabakh front line recently.

Deadly exchanges of fire at various front-line sections appear to have become more frequent in recent years, prompting growing concern from the international community.

During their most recent visit to the region, the U.S., Russian, and French mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group presented the conflicting parties with what they called a "draft mechanism for investigation of incidents along the front lines with the participation of all sides."

No details of that draft have been made public.