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Moscow ready to 'assist' Armenia

October 31, 2020

Russia has pledged Armenia "all necessary assistance" if the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict expands to Armenian territory. Shelling has broken a fourth internationally mediated cease-fire bid.

People in Stepanakert look at the rubble of a destroyed building
Image: Uncredited/AP/dpa/picture alliance

Russia would be prepared to render "all necessary assistance" to treaty partner Armenia if the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict expanded to Armenian territory, Russia's Foreign Ministry declared Saturday.

Overnight, Armenia and Azerbaijan had again accused each other of shelling residential areas of the separatist Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh — internationally recognized as lying within Azerbaijan.

That followed a fourth cease-fire bid, negotiated Friday in Geneva via the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

At those six-hour talks, involving both countries' foreign ministers, the countries pledged not to target civilians and to provide lists of soldiers detained for potential exchanges.

Fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh

Read more: Civilians suffer amid Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Armenia requests assistance

Early on Saturday, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had formally asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for "urgent consultations" on security assistance, reiterating that Turkey was backing Azerbaijan.

Russia and Armenia have a 1997 mutual assistance treaty, with Russia maintaining a base in Armenia's second-largest city of Gyumri.

An Armenian soldier fires artillery on the front line on October 25, 2020, during the ongoing fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces
Weeks of fighting have claimed hundreds of lives in the Nagorno-Karabakh regionImage: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

Read more: Fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh: Ethnic Armenians in limbo

Shelling asserted by both sides

Nagorno-Karabakh authorities said Saturday shelling had struck the central market in Stepanakert, the enclave's largest city. Armenia's Defense Ministry said several civilians had been wounded in Shushi in the enclave's south.

Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry denied both accusations and said Azeri regions of Terter, Aghdam and Aghjabedi had come under artillery fire.

The monthlong conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh has officially claimed more than 1,200 lives but the actual death toll on all sides is thought to be substantially higher.

ipj/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)