15 Armenian soldiers die in fire at military base

Armenia's Defense Ministry says 15 soldiers have died in a fire at a military base

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — A fire at a military base in Armenia early Thursday killed 15 soldiers after they used gasoline for heating, the Defense Ministry said.

The blaze quickly swept through a military barrack in the village of Azat, in Gegharkunik province, eastern Armenia.

Authorities said that seven soldiers were injured, and three of them remained in grave condition.

Armenian Defense Minister Suren Papikyan said at a Cabinet meeting that the fire erupted because soldiers used gasoline to fuel a stove in violation of fire safety rules. He said that the unit’s commander and about a dozen other officers were also fired.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan also fired Gen. Vagram Grigoryan, who was in charge of a group of forces in the region that includes the unit where the fire occurred.

Prosecutors opened a probe into the fire.

The Gegharkunik region borders Azerbaijan, which has been locked in a decades-long conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is part of Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994.

In six weeks of heavy fighting that began in September 2020, the Azerbaijani military routed Armenian forces and moved deep into Nagorno-Karabakh, forcing Armenia to accept a Russia-brokered peace deal in November that year. Another flare-up of fighting last September killed 155 soldiers from both sides.