Russian peacekeeping forces reportedly leaving Nagorno-Karabakh

Russian peacekeeping forces reportedly leaving Nagorno-Karabakh
Azerbaijan destroyed Nagorno-Karabakh's parliament building. / bne IntelliNews
By Cavid Aga in Baku April 17, 2024

The withdrawal of Russian peacekeeping forces in Nagorno-Karabakh, which was retaken  by Azerbaijan last September, has reportedly commenced. Sources, including Azerbaijani Press Agency and Yeni Musavat, both government-linked, claim that the initial contingent, along with military equipment, has left the area surrounding the Dadivank Monastery in the Kalbajar district.

This development signals the start of the Russian peacekeeping contingent's exit from Azerbaijani territories, a move that follows their temporary deployment under the tripartite agreement signed by the leaders of Azerbaijan, Russia, and Armenia on November 10, 2020, according to APA.

Sources cited by Yeni Musavat allege that the Russian contingent is in the process of completely leaving Azerbaijan, particularly Nagorno-Karabakh, marking a historic moment anticipated to conclude within a few days. It is reported that Azerbaijani police have taken over the responsibilities at the Dadivank post in Kalbajar, and similar transitions are occurring at other locations, including the base in Khojaly.

This phased withdrawal is presented as Azerbaijan regaining full sovereign control over Nagorno-Karabakh and its territories. The mainly ethnic Armenian population of the area fled immediately after the invasion, fearing Azerbaijani reprisals. Azerbaijan plans to resettle the area, including with ethnic Azerbaijanis and their descendents who fled the area after the Armenian victory in the first Nagorno-Karabakh war in the early 1990s.

The departure of part of the peacekeeping forces, captured in online videos, is claimed to have taken place through the Tartar and Barda districts. The press secretary of the Russian President Dmitry Peskov confirmed the news according to TASS. "Yes, this is really so," he said while responding to journalists' questions.

Critics argue that Russia has used its military forces in the South Caucasus to impose its dominance in the region. But Moscow's influence is on the wane, and its troops are now often not welcome.

Russian forces made no attempt to prevent the Azerbaijani assault on Nagorno-Karabakh, nor Baku's previous blockage of the disputed territory or Azerbaijani attacks on Armenia itself. Russia and Azerbaijan have insisted that the Armenian refugees can return, but this is seen as empty words, given the bitter history between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Armenia also appears to be pushing for Russian troops to leave its territory. If Moscow complies, Russian troops would only remain in its occupied Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.