RFE/RL – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Author)
YEREVAN -- Armenia expects Russian peacekeepers to provide “clear answers” over the latest escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh, where at least three ethnic Armenian soldiers were killed and several more wounded in clashes with Azerbaijani troops.
The ethnic Armenian soldiers were killed on March 25, authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh said, accusing Baku of violating a Russian-brokered cease-fire. Nagorno-Karabakh's military initially said two soldiers were killed and later raised the number of dead to three and 14 wounded.
Eduard Aghajanian, a member of the ruling Civil Contract faction in the Armenian parliament and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said “advancing Azerbaijani armed forces appeared behind the Russian peacekeepers’ backs.”
Aghajanian said areas in the east of Nagorno-Karabakh that Azerbaijani forces took control of as a result of their advance on March 24-25 were in the zone of Russian peacekeepers’ responsibility under the terms of the November 2020 cease-fire between Armenia and Azerbaijan brokered by Moscow.
“Therefore, we expect clear answers from our Russian partners about the conditions in which this happened,” Aghajanian said at a news conference, adding that Yerevan also expects Azerbaijani forces to return to the positions from where they launched their advance and that the problem should be resolved “within the shortest possible time.”
He noted the use of attack drones, including Bayraktar TB-2s, in the skirmishes with Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian forces.
“We are talking about a very specific escalation,” he said, adding that Armenia’s questions are “first of all addressed to our Russian partners who, as we assume, should have excluded it in the area of their responsibility.”
Nagorno-Karabakh’s military said that the situation in the east of the region remained “extremely tense” on March 25.
The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry accused Armenia of attempting “to mislead the international community” by what it described as disinformation about the situation.
It said in a statement on March 25 that the only way of ensuring peace and stability in the region was a full implementation of signed joint statements, “including a full withdrawal from the region of the remaining illegal Armenian armed groups and normalization of relations on the basis of international legal principles.”
Ethnic Armenian authorities in Stepanakert said Russian peacekeepers had so far been unsuccessful in trying to achieve the withdrawal of Azerbaijani forces from the area of their responsibility.
They added that they still hope that “decisive efforts by the Russian side” will make it possible to achieve the withdrawal of the Azerbaijani troops and Armenian civilians will be able to return to their homes.
Yerevan has accused Azerbaijan of deliberately leaving Karabakh's ethnic-Armenian population without natural gas supplies and on March 24 warned of a "humanitarian catastrophe" after gas supplies to the region were cut off following repair work.
The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry rejected the claim as "baseless," saying that severe weather conditions have caused the interruption of supplies.
Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a six-week war in 2020 over the long-contested enclave that claimed more than 6,500 lives.
The fighting ended with a Russian-brokered cease-fire under which Armenians ceded territories they had controlled for decades to Azerbaijan and Russia deployed a peacekeeping contingent to the enclave.
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