Since more than a hundred thousand Armenians who did not want to live under the jurisdiction of Azerbaijan have voluntarily left the region and moved to Armenia, it seems that the further stay of Russian peacekeepers in Karabakh makes no logical sense, as the security of the Armenians who have expressed their wish to stay in Karabakh is fully ensured by the law enforcement agencies of Azerbaijan.
For example, video footage published on local TV channels and social media shows that in the areas previously inhabited by Armenians, including Khankendi itself, the internal troops and police units of Azerbaijan have set up checkpoints that carry out guarding and patrolling functions.
As for the Armenians who have chosen to live in Karabakh under the jurisdiction of Azerbaijan, the country’s State Migration Service is already processing relevant documents and providing food and medical assistance to the Armenian population.
In turn, Russian peacekeepers removed their posts along the former line of contact and focused mainly on their main base in Khojaly.
According to Russian officials, the issue of further activities of the peacekeeping contingent will now be discussed with the Azerbaijani side. In particular, a few days ago, the TASS news agency reported that a delegation from the Russian Defense Ministry would visit Yerevan to discuss the withdrawal of the peacekeeping contingent from Karabakh.
Yerevan, however, firmly denied this, stating that since this issue no longer concerns Armenia, all discussions regarding the future of the Russian peacekeepers are to be held only with representatives of Azerbaijan.
Although a number of Russian sources have already reported that the peacekeeping contingent will be withdrawn from Karabakh by the end of October, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin emphasized in a recent interview that Karabakh has a “dire need” for peacekeepers, hence their withdrawal from the region is out of the question. According to Galuzin, the peacekeepers are currently “ensuring the safety of the Armenian civilian population,” some of whom may decide to return to Karabakh.
Galuzin’s words were echoed by the statement of his chief, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who says that the peacekeepers are ready to support the establishment of peaceful life in the South Caucasus. In particular, this is mentioned in Lavrov’s article “Compliance with the principles of the UN Charter in their totality and interrelation is a guarantee of international peace and stability”.
The Russian Foreign Minister also emphasized that US and EU interference in relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia “creates instability”.
“Following its geopolitical ambitions, Brussels is now imposing ‘mediation services’ on Azerbaijan and Armenia, bringing destabilization to the South Caucasus together with Washington,” Lavrov writes. “Now that the leaders of Yerevan and Baku have settled the issue of mutual recognition of sovereignty, it is time to establish peaceful life and build trust. And the Russian peacekeeping contingent is ready to contribute to this in every possible way”.
At the same time, the Russian Ministry of Defense continues to issue daily bulletins on the activities of the peacekeeping contingent in Karabakh. For example, the October 8 bulletin says that the peacekeeping contingent continues to carry out its duties “on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh”. Its duties, according to the bulletin, include “supporting continuous interaction” between Baku and Khankendi (apparently referring to representatives of the Armenian community—Ed.), preventing bloodshed, ensuring security, and respecting humanitarian principles towards the civilian population.
The bulletin also says that since there have been no ceasefire violations in the peacekeepers’ area of responsibility, two observation posts in the direction of Khojavand and Aghdara (these locations in the bulletin are replaced with Armenian toponyms—Ed.) have been removed, and the work of the joint group on restoring gas supply in the Shusha region continues.
The October 9 bulletin reports that the peacekeeping contingent has organized 25 posts to guard warehouses containing weapons and military equipment confiscated from Armenian armed groups in Karabakh. Fourteen of them were organized jointly with the Azerbaijani side.
The bulletin, in which the Russian Defense Ministry again uses the toponym “Nagorno-Karabakh,” mentions that work continues to restore electricity and gas supplies to residential areas of Karabakh with the involvement of the peacekeepers.
A propaganda piece shown on the Russian Defense Ministry-owned Zvezda TV reported that doctors from the peacekeeping contingent had provided medical assistance to “a resident of Nagorno-Karabakh.”
“An elderly man asked for help after approaching a guard post. The man was taken to the base camp of the Russian peacekeepers, where medics administered him necessary aid. The civilian is currently under the supervision of specialists,” the Russian Defense Ministry reports.
You will recall that according to the trilateral statement of November 10, 2020, Russia has deployed a contingent of about 2,000 personnel along with 90 armored personnel carriers and several hundred special vehicles to Karabakh for a period of five years. The mandate of the Russian peacekeepers can be extended for another five years, but with the consent of the three parties.
However, now that Azerbaijan has secured full sovereignty over the territories previously under the responsibility of the Russian peacekeepers, the future of their mandate should be discussed only with Baku.
Following the signing of the trilateral statement and the cessation of hostilities, a joint Turkish-Russian monitoring center was established in Aghdam on the basis of a separate agreement to monitor the compliance with the ceasefire in Karabakh, with thirty officers each from Russia and Türkiye.
Given the recent developments, the issue of the future of this monitoring center may also be relevant.
Translated from haqqin.az