Russia withdraws failed peacekeeping mission from Nagorno-Karabakh

Russia withdrew its peacekeeping forces from Nagorno-Karabakh following the Azerbaijani takeover of the territory and the mass exodus of its ethnic Armenian population.

The Russian peacekeeping contingent’s withdrawal from Azerbaijan has begun. The first personnel and military equipment belonging to the peacekeeping contingent left Azerbaijan’s Kelbajar region.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday night that the peacekeepers had dismantled most of their observation posts along the Karabakh “line of contact” that existed until Azerbaijan’s September 19-20 military offensive.

The official TASS news agency, citing an unnamed diplomatic source, reported the following morning that a Russian military delegation will visit Yerevan later on Friday to discuss with Armenian officials the time frames for the Russian withdrawal from Karabakh.

However, the spokesman for Armenia’s Defense Ministry, Aram Torosian, said that he has “no information” about the visit. He said no Russian-Armenian talks on the issue have been scheduled so far.

Russia deployed the 2,000-strong peacekeeping contingent to Karabakh in line with a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement that stopped the 2020 Armenian-Azerbaijani war. The Russian troops were due to stay there at least until November 2025.

The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, indicated earlier this week that Moscow has no plans to pull them out of the region soon but will discuss the matter with Baku. Konstantin Zatulin, a pro-Armenian Russian lawmaker, pointed out, meanwhile, that the Russian peacekeepers “have nobody to protect anymore” because Karabakh’s practically entire population has fled to Armenia. Zatulin said the exodus, accompanied by the restoration of Azerbaijani control over Karabakh, is a “blow to Russia’s positions in the region.”

The Karabakh Armenians regarded the Russian military presence as their primary security guarantee and expected the peacekeepers to defend their homeland in case of a large-scale Azerbaijani attack. However, Russian officials ruled out such intervention hours after the Azerbaijani army launched the offensive on September 19.

Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed on Thursday that the peacekeepers could not have thwarted the assault because Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian downgraded their mandate with his decision to recognize Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh. Putin acknowledged that there are virtually no Armenians left in Karabakh.

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