Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Tuesday he had complained to Russian President Vladimir Putin about “problems” linked to Russian peacekeepers in restive Nagorno-Karabakh.
Caucasus arch foes Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two brutal wars for control of the Armenian-majority region and the latest conflict in 2020 ended with the deployment of Moscow’s forces.
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“In a phone conversation with Putin yesterday, I spoke of a possible escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh and said that there are problems in the zone where Russian peacekeepers are responsible,” Pashinyan told a news conference in Yerevan.
“Azerbaijan’s rhetoric is becoming more and more aggressive every day,” he said, denouncing a blockade of the so-called Lachin corridor, which is Karabakh’s sole land link with Armenia.
He described the disruptions along the route that have been ongoing for months as “preparation for ethnic cleansing of Armenians.”
Since mid-December, a group of self-styled Azerbaijani environmental activists has barred traffic in the Lachin corridor to protest what they say is illegal mining.
Yerevan says the blockade has led to a “full-blown humanitarian crisis” in the mountainous region which faces shortages of food, medicines and fuel.
And it has said the blockade was aimed at driving Armenians from Karabakh, amounting to “an ethnic cleansing”.
Baku has denied the claims.
Pashinyan said during the conference Tuesday that Armenia recently received Baku’s response to proposals for a full peace treaty, which Yerevan submitted in mid-February.
He noted some progress in the peace process, but said “fundamental problems” remain because “Azerbaijan is trying to put forward territorial claims, which is a red line to Armenia.”
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, ethnic Armenian separatists in Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan. The ensuing conflict claimed around 30,000 lives.
Another flare-up in violence in 2020 left more than 6,500 dead and ended with a Russian-brokered truce.
Under the deal Armenia ceded territories it had controlled for decades and Russia deployed its peacekeeping contingent to oversee the fragile ceasefire.
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