Russian peacekeepers have begun withdrawing from Azerbaijan’s Karabakh, says Kremlin

By Thomson Reuters Apr 17, 2024 | 6:41 AM

MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Kremlin said on Wednesday that Russian peacekeepers had begun withdrawing from Azerbaijan’s Karabakh area, ending a multi-year deployment which gave Moscow an important foothold in the strategically-important South Caucasus region.

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

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has since questioned his country’s traditional alliance with Russia – which has a string of military facilities inside Armenia – and has started to forge closer ties with the West.

Armenia has also asked Russian border guards to leave their posts at the country’s main airport in Yerevan from Aug. 1.

When asked about Azerbaijani media reports of a Russian withdrawal from Karabakh and areas nearby, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday:

“Yes, it really is the case.” He did not elaborate.

Azerbaijani news agency APA reported late on Tuesday that Russian peacekeepers had begun withdrawing and that the first personnel and equipment had disappeared from a monastery revered by Armenians in Azerbaijan’s Kalbajar district a few days ago.

APA said Azerbaijani police officers had replaced the Russians at the site.

Russian peacekeeping troops deployed to Karabakh in November 2020 under a Moscow-brokered deal that halted six weeks of fighting between Azerbaijani and ethnic Armenian forces.

Almost 2,000 servicemen, 90 armoured personnel carriers, and 380 vehicles and pieces of other hardware were deployed at the time, the Russian defence ministry said.

(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Andrew Heavens)