Leaders spar over missile attack claims in Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict

Smoke rises after the recent shelling, in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh.

(CNN)The president of the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region warned citizens in large cities of Azerbaijan Sunday to leave to avoid "inevitable loss" after he said Azerbaijan targeted civilians in the region's main city of Stepanakert the last couple of days.

Nagorno-Karabakh leader Arayik Harutyunyan said on Twitter that "mil objects in large cities of Azerbaijan are the target of the Defense Army of #Artsakh. Calling on Azerbaijani population to leave these cities to avoid inevitable loss." Artsakh is the Armenian name of Nagorno Karabakh.
    But Harutyunyan later tweeted that firing had "stopped."
      "Currently firing stopped upon my command to avoid loss among #civilians. Failing Azerbaijani military-political leadership to draw appropriate lessons, our commensurate response will pursue. Determined as never. #Azerbaijan can still stop its aggression," he wrote.
      Long-simmering tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan have flared up recently in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region, with both sides accusing each other of attacking civilians amid reports of casualties.
      A view shows a building material store recent shelling in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh.
      In this image, distributed by the Armenian government, a building burns after recent shelling during the ongoing fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region, in the city of Stepanakert early on October 4.
      A policeman stands in front of a building damaged by shellfire.
      Populated and controlled by ethnic Armenians, Nagorno-Karabakh sits inside Azerbaijani territory. Its claim to independence is supported by Armenia, to which it is connected by two highways. Nagorno-Karabakh also exerts control over a handful of adjacent territories internationally recognized as belonging to Azerbaijan.