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Russia withdrawing from Nagorno-Karabakh, Kremlin says

April 17, 2024

Russian forces did not intervene in the conflict last year that saw Azerbaijan recapture Nagorno-Karabakh and the mass explusion of ethnic Armenians.

Vehicles of Russian peacekeepers leaving Azerbaijan's Nagorno-Karabakh region for Armenia pass an Armenian checkpoint on a road near the village of Kornidzor, Armeni
Russian peacekeepers did not prevent Azerbaijan's recapture of Nagorno-Karabakh and the subsequent exodus of local ArmeniansImage: Irakli Gedenidze/REUTERS

Russian peacekeepers will withdraw from Azerbaijan's Nagorgno-Karabakh region, the Kremlin said on Wednesday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the move, responding to a question about reports in the Azerbaijani media about the withdrawal. "Yes, it really is the case," Peskov told reporters.

Azerbaijan retook the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh last September despite the presence of Russian peacekeepers there. The move triggered a mass exodus of ethnic Armenians.

What did Russian peacekeepers do in the region?

For nearly three decades, Nagorno-Karabakh, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, was controlled by pro-Yerevan separatists and had a majority Armenian population.

In 2020, however, a bloody six-week offensive by Azerbaijani forces seized much of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas. 

As part of a Moscow-brokered cease-fire agreement between Baku and Yerevan, Russia deployed a 2,000-strong peacekeeping force to the region.

In September 2023, in a lightning one-day offensive that Russian peacekeepers were unable to prevent, Baku completed its takeover of Nagorno-Karabakh.

This triggered a refugee crisis as almost the entire local population of about 100,000 ethnic Armenians left for Armenia, fearing reprisals and crackdowns.

Refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh adjust to life in Armenia

What about Armenian-Russian relations?

The conflict has caused a rift in relations between the traditional allies of Russia and Armenia, although Moscow has maintained warm relations with Baku.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has repeatedly criticized Russia for not intervening in support of his country in the face of what he calls Azerbaijani aggression.

He recently said that Yerevan had de facto suspended its participation in the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a defense alliance. 

Yerevan also joined the International Criminal Court against Moscow's wishes. The move obliges Yerevan to arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin should he visit Armenia.

Meanwhile, Armenia and Azerbaijan are trying to broker a broader peace agreement.

Armenia and Azerbaijan‘s roadblock to peace

dh/wd (AFP, Reuters)