April 17, 2024 - 16:59 AMT
Russia confirms start of withdrawal of peacekeepers from Karabakh

The Kremlin has confirmed reports about the start of the withdrawal of Russian peacekeeping forces stationed in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“It is indeed so,” Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Russian president, said when asked by Russian media on Wednesday to comment on the reports. He did not elaborate, RFE/RL’s Armenian service reports.

Earlier, a number of Azerbaijani social media users published videos of Russian military convoys moving out of Nagorno-Karabakh in the direction of the Azerbaijani city of Ganja.

Azerbaijani authorities initially did not confirm that the matter concerned the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers. Later, Hikmet Hajiyev, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s top foreign policy aide, confirmed to local media that “the decision on the early withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers was made by the leaders of both countries.”

Russian peacekeepers were deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh in accordance with a trilateral agreement between Moscow, Baku and Yerevan that put an end to a six-week war between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the region in November 2020.

Azerbaijan had regained control over all seven districts around Nagorno-Karabakh as well as captured chunks of Karabakh proper in that war.

Under the terms of the ceasefire deal about 2,000 Russian peacekeepers were deployed in the region for a period of five years with the possibility of further extending their stay to protect the local Armenian population as well as a vital corridor connecting the region with Armenia.

Azerbaijan, however, established its presence on the road known as the Lachin Corridor in late 2022 and effectively took it under its own control the following year, imposing a 10-month-long blockade on Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenians.

Russian peacekeepers’ continued presence in the region became a moot point after more than 100,000 Armenians, virtually the entire population of Nagorno-Karabakh, left their homes and moved to Armenia following Azerbaijan’s one-day military operation in the region last September.

Yerevan blamed the Russian peacekeepers for failing to defend the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Baku has all along insisted that Karabakh is an Azerbaijani territory where Russian peacekeepers are stationed only “temporarily.”