18 Armenian soldiers killed in clashes with Azerbaijani troops

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Yerevan, April 3 (IANS) A total of 18 Armenian soldiers have been killed, 35 wounded in border clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani troops on the Karabakh conflict zone, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan said on Saturday.

During the National Security Council meeting, Sargsyan called Saturday’s clash one of large scale since the ceasefire in 1994. “Due to the coordinated defensive actions, Armenian troops managed to take control of the situation,” Sargsyan added.

He also called for the need to sign an agreement with Karabakh on mutual military assistance and gave a number of orders to prevent further escalation of the contact line between Armenian and Azerbaijani troops, Xinhua reported.

Earlier, the Armenian defence ministry reported that Azerbaijan launched attacks in the Nagorno-Karabakh region along their borders on Friday night, using heavy weapons, tanks and artillery, according to the press service of the Armenian defence ministry on Saturday.

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The ministry said the Azerbaijani troops were repelled and sustained serious losses in the counter-attacks by the Armenian side.

According to reports from the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh ministry of defence, two helicopters, three tanks and two unmanned aerial enemy unit were destroyed, with casualties amounting to 200 people.

A 12-year-old was reportedly killed in a missile attack by the Azerbaijani armed forces, and two other children were wounded. On the same day, Azerbaijan’s defence ministry dismissed reports of an Azerbaijani helicopter having been downed by Armenian armed forces, as the two countries blamed each other for an escalation of tension along their borders.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday urged parties in the conflict to “observe an immediate ceasefire and exercise restraint in order to prevent further casualties,” according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

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Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a bitter dispute over the mountainous region of Nagorno-Karabakh seized by Armenia- backed forces from Azerbaijan in 1991. Peace talks have been held since 1994 when a ceasefire was reached.

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