Azerbaijan, Armenia report shelling of cities despite truce

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Azerbaijani soldiers and firefighters search for survivors after rocket fire overnight by Armenian forces, early Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020, in a residential area in Ganja, Azerbaijan's second largest city, near the border with Armenia. Several civilians were killed and dozens were wounded. Russian President Vladimir Putin brokered a cease-fire on Friday in a series of calls with President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Armenia's Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian. (Ismail Coskun/IHA via AP)

BAKU – Azerbaijan on Sunday accused Armenia of attacking its cities and villages in violation of the cease-fire deal brokered by Russia that seeks to end the worst outbreak of hostilities in the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said that Armenian forces shelled villages in the Aghdam, Terter, Aghjabedi and Fizuli regions of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani authorities earlier accused Armenian forces of firing missiles at Ganja, the country's second largest city, and the city of Mingachevir overnight.

Nine civilians were killed and more than 30 others wounded in Ganja, officials said. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev called the attack on the city “a war crime” and a “gross” violation of the cease-fire on Twitter, promising “a befitting retaliation."

Nagorno-Karabakh's military officials denied attacking Ganja and said the territory's army is observing the cease-fire. They added that during the night Azerbaijani forces shelled Stepanakert, the region's capital, and other towns in violation of the truce.

The recent bout of fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces started Sept. 27 and left hundreds of people dead in the biggest escalation of the decades-old conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh since a separatist war there ended in 1994. The region lies in Azerbaijan but has been under control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia.

The foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan signed a truce in Moscow after Russian President Vladimir Putin had brokered it in a series of calls with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.

The cease-fire took effect at noon Saturday, after talks in Moscow that were sponsored by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The deal stipulated that the cease-fire should pave the way for talks on settling the conflict.

If the truce had held, it would have marked a major diplomatic coup for Russia, which has a security pact with Armenia but also cultivated warm ties with Azerbaijan.