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25 Mar, 2022 21:01

Putin talks to Armenian PM as Nagorno-Karabakh tensions mount

Moscow is mediating as Yerevan accuses Baku of violating ceasefire in disputed region
Putin talks to Armenian PM as Nagorno-Karabakh tensions mount

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of Armenia called Russian President Vladimir Putin, on Friday, to discuss what Yerevan claims is an alarming situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. The region – currently patrolled by Russian peacekeepers – is populated with ethnic Armenians, but internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan. 

Armenian media said the two leaders discussed reports of renewed tensions in the area, which endured a 44-day conflict in 2020 that only ended after Moscow’s diplomatic and military intervention. Yerevan claims that Azeri soldiers have “invaded” the territory since Thursday, seizing two villages and using drones to kill at least three soldiers of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), whom the local authorities identified by name. 

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu already fielded calls from his Armenian counterpart Suren Papikyan on Thursday and Azerbaijan’s Zakir Hasanov on Friday. Pashinyan’s call to Putin elevates the matter from a purely military level, however.

Armenia has accused Azerbaijan of seizing two villages, Khramort and Parukh – which the Azeris call Farukh – located on the armistice line between Azerbaijan and the NKR, which was established in 2020. Armenia media claims that the ensuing firefight, which allegedly involved Turkish-made Bayraktar TB-2 combat drones, resulted in more than a dozen wounded and three killed on the its side, as well as unspecified Azeri casualties.

Baku has denied the accusations, saying its troops were simply “continuing the process of clarifying their locations and positions without the use of force.”

Claims that “UAVs were allegedly used and an armed clash took place on the territory of Azerbaijan where Russian peacekeepers are temporarily stationed, leading to the death of our servicemen, is a lie and a provocation,” the Azeri Defense Ministry insisted.

While internationally recognized as Azerbaijan’s territory, most of Nagorno-Karabakh has been under the control of its ethnic Armenian majority since the 1990s, with Yerevan’s backing. Baku moved to retake the region in September 2020, with support from Turkey. Moscow eventually brokered a ceasefire that left Azerbaijan in control of more than half the land, with the remainder – including the only land route to Armenia – patrolled by Russian peacekeepers.